Ravi Shankar and George Harrison: Collaborations

Collaborations is an incredible collection of classical Indian music from Ravi Shankar and friends. These discs (three CDs plus DVD) exemplify the spiritual and ageless songs that influenced George Harrison’s music.

Ravi Shankar and George Harrison


Numerical Ranking: 9
Label: Rhino
UK Release Date: 2010-10-18
US Release Date: 2010-10-19
Label Website
Artist Website

Pandit Ravi Shankar is a learned scholar of Indian music and a master of the sitar. The celebration of his 90th birthday in 2010 warranted a special gift for his fans, the box set, Collaborations with includes Shankar’s own compositions and recordings with involvement from George Harrison of The Beatles. The set includes three audio discs (two of which had never been released on this format before), a concert recording on DVD, and a book in some carefully considered packaging, which makes this set worthy of a man of such esteemed stature.

1997’s Chants of India (formerly out of print) is the first disc in this deluxe package. Ravi Shankar created this music to frame ancient Sanskrit chants with George Harrison producing it. The solemn “Vandanaa Trayee” sets the tone for the first part of the disc. It is a trio of salutations for the god Ganesha, goddess Saraswati and the Guru (teacher) featuring an evocative sitar line in its midst. Shankar composes his music respectfully around prayers like “Asato Maa”, “Poornamadah” and “Gaayatri” engaging each one by taking a somber and sentimental approach. The latter half of the disc is no less fervent or didactic, athough Shankar’s instrumentation is more forthright. “Svara Mantra” is the sole entirely instrumental song; its vibrant strings and flute convey the vibrancy of India. “Prabhujee” may be the most soul nourishing with an incantation about seeking the Lord and welcoming him into one’s life and filling one’s heart with love.

Classical Indian music is represented by a long out of print recording, produced by Harrison, entitled Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival from India. Unlike the first disc, with its ceremonial constraints, the second disc is more varied, lively and instrument focused. “Bhajan” is a joyful chant to Krishna, Gopal and Govind, while “Naderdani” has Shankar’s sitar evoking playfulness with masterful precision. “Dehati” is a percussion showcase as the tabla players create two minutes of call and response near the end. Unlike the DVD presentation of the same name, this disc is from studio sessions in 1976.

1974’s Shankar Family & Friends also sees first light on the third compact disc and includes the Dream, Nightmare and Dawn ballet Shankar composed but never staged. Talented Indian musicians get by with a little help from Westerners like Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Billy Preston and Harrison himself. Just a moment of listening to the song, “I am Missing You”, with its piano and saxophone intro plus English lyrics, reveal this collaboration. This is one song I would avoid, though it’s “Reprise” smoothes over the outlandishness. The ballet’s “Overture” demonstrates the musical diversity the project encompasses. “Lust” is a light calypso-ish song with marimba and woodwinds. Shankar’s rapid sitar is the focus of the eastern melody of “Love-Dance Ecstacy”. “Dispute & Violence” starts with vocal call and response interaction then transforms into an upbeat dance number. Everything ends optimistically though as the ballet progresses from an “Awakening” to “Peace & Hope”, a slow building and collaborative, yet anti-climatic, finale.

The DVD contains Shankar’s Music Festival from India performed at Royal Albert Hall on September 23rd, 1974. It will not suit consumers of high def footage but those will not be impressed but like Harrison’s own Concert for Bangladesh, this recording is effective through close-ups of Shankar and friends as it shifts between the musicians. After he is introduced and embraced by Harrison, Shankar alternates between conducting and performing against a saffron backdrop shown depicting “Om”. Engaged in the latter, Shankar immerses himself in a trance and works up sweat while his fingers dance upon the strings of his beautifully inlaid sitar. Unfortunately much of the video footage from the concert was lost but the audio has survived. It is presented in full on the disc as a separate feature. The sole “bonus feature” included is a clip of a wizened Shankar involved in remastering the concert with his daughter, Anoushka Shankar, where the Pandit relives the performance.

Finally there is a hardcover book included which shares dialogue from Harrison and Shankar concerning their musically intimate relationship alongside unreleased photographs. Some quotes worth sharing will further emphasize the historical importance of this music. “Ravi Shankar is probably the person who has influenced my life the most” says Harrison in the liner notes. And though Shankar was not aware of The Beatles when the two first started their relationship, he comes to realize that Harrison “has a wonderful soul". Harrison, acknowledging adoption of the facial hair of the time, says “moustaches were part of the synchronicity and the collective consciousness”. The diligence of Harrison brought Ravi Shankar, Indian music and Eastern spirituality soundly into Western collective consciousness.

Some interpretation and translation of Sanskrit and Hindi provided by reviewer’s mother, Shama Mital.






PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.