[12 September 2010]
“When I was on site for the filming of Raga in 1968 and on the river Ganges, the pattern of this Raga came spontaneously to my mind … It was recorded early in the morning in a Temple near Allahabad … It is a swara bhed raga, born by shifting the tonic of a particular raga and creating a new work from the old one …” explains Ravi Shankar. That raga is the centerpiece of this album, nearly fifty minutes of unforgiving activity from sitar, tanpura, and tabla. It’s an act of classical intricacy performed with athletic rigor, like three tennis pros making lace. The raga is followed by a series of interviews with American concert patrons recorded in 1967, and four minutes of Vedic chanting from priests at the Allahabad temple recorded in 1968. It looks as though the Nine Decades project is intended to be anthropological in its completeness, giving us not only Shankar, but the reaction to Shankar, and an idea of the environment to which he was responding when he played. At first I was disappointed not to have more sitar and tabla, but the more I listen to this approach, the more I like it.