Music

Anoushka Shankar: Rise

Matt Cibula

Gone are the strict raga compositions, tweaked ever-so-slightly; these are songs that use raga bases, and they are filled with as many hooks as drones.


Anoushka Shankar

Rise

Label: Angel
US Release Date: 2005-09-27
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

She's really onto something, here.

Anoushka Shankar's previous albums, depending on who you are, are either quite beautiful expressions of Indian raga music or horrible abominations that are barely worthy of mention. (Read some of the Amazon.com reviews sometime, if you want to see the split between the two.) Not being an angry young Indian person who demands authenticity above all else, I fall mostly into the former camp. But I've been kind of underwhelmed so far; sure, they were nice, but Anoushka and Anourag were both a little boring, both too much in the shadow of her father, the single biggest worldwide name in raga sitar composition and performance. After all, why buy the Anoushka when the Ravi is free, or at least plentiful? (Plus, she was barely 17 when her first record came out.)

Well, here she is, at age 24, taking the fresh step, with fine and fun results. Gone are the strict raga compositions, tweaked ever-so-slightly; these are songs that use raga bases (only one is over 10 minutes!), and they are filled with as many hooks as drones. On "Sinister Grains", her sitar sound is tarted up with effects to create a wall of weird sounds, and on a couple of tracks, Shankar doesn't even play sitar at all, just keyboards. I'm sure the moldy-mango traditionalists will go nutfire on this one, but I think it's all for the better.

Turns out homegirl is a synthesist at heart. Her pianist, Ricardo Miño, mixes in Cuban and South American and flamenco stylings; she takes four lines her father wrote and turns them into a grand suite called "Mahadeva" that sounds more like an A.R. Rahman film composition than anything on a "Now That's What I Call Raga" comp; it's clear from "Sinister Grains" that she's been hearing Karsh Kale and Midival Punditz and the various bhangra boiz try to integrate Indian classical music with electronic and dance culture. It's experimental, perhaps, but in an extremely ear-friendly way.

The biggest happiness here, however, is how ego-less Anoushka turns out to be. Sure, there are look-at-me workouts (the sexy "Naked", especially, where it's just her on sitar and synths) but she allows Miño a lot of room on tracks like "Solea", where he plays Young Herbie Hancock to her Miles Davis. She calls in Vishwan Mohan Bhatt, one of her father's prized pupils, to play the veena slide guitar on "Prayer in Passing", but their interplay is more about the music than about itself. The tracks with vocals seem just as heartfelt as the ones without.

The measure of Shankar's selflessness is how she lets the best track on the album be completely taken over by her two tabla players, Tanmoy Bose and Bikram Ghosh. They are playing on "Red Sun", but they also collaborate on one of the most exciting exhibitions of bol vocalizing I've ever heard. (Bol is where a tabla player uses nonsense syllables and sounds to imitate the lightning-fast sounds of his percussion.) Over an uptempo and dance-savvy beat, they spit wordless phrases at each other, trading lines like old jazz guys hopped up on curry powder. Sometimes they become suddenly multiple through tracking; at the end, they somehow manage to sing the same impossible lines simultaneously with the suddenly-introduced rock drumbeat. It is, simply, the future of world music.

Pretty soon, people will stop having to mention the whole "she's Ravi's daughter" thing in every review.* Anoushka Shankar might end up being just as interesting, in her own way, as anyone else in her family. Yeah, I said it. Because, after the promise and guts shown in Rise, she's earned it.

* And, of course, the identity of her famous half-sister. Ho-hum, unless they record together, which would be awesome.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

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 .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

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.

Books

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.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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