Wednesday, 21 September 2016

"Land of Gold" by Anoushka Shankar


Having Ravi Shankar, one of the world's greatest players of the sitar as your father might give cause for concern. I mean, how on earth could you ever live up to or surpass such a prolific talent? The truth is you probably can't so what to do with that knowledge? Anoushka Shankar, also the sister of Norah Jones, merely plays her favoured instrument with all the passion and love she can muster and, with her father's teachings very much in mind, plays from her soul.

Following on from last year's "Home," a classical recording, an homage to her departed father, this year's release is something of a prog-raga album. OK, that is crap, I am playing with words, trying to be clever The previous album featured raga whereas "Land of Gold" is far more modern, more progressive rather than reflective yet retains the same intoxicating sound. What is fundamentally different about this album is the manner in which Anoushka merges various contemporary styles, fusing traditional sitar with jazz, hip hop and spoken word. That irresistible noise, the almost nasal twang of the sitar strings, along with the drone that accompanies the solo work, gives a mesmeric quality to the pieces. 

"A sitar can have 18, 19, 20, or 21 strings. Six or seven of these are played strings which run over curved, raised frets, and the remainder are sympathetic strings(tarb, also known as taarif or tarafdaar) which run underneath the frets and resonate in sympathy with the played strings. The frets are movable, allowing fine tuning. The played strings run to tuning pegs on or near the head of the instrument, while the sympathetic strings, which are a variety of different lengths, pass through small holes in the fretboard to engage with the smaller tuning pegs that run down the instrument's neck."   

Indian classical music, unlike its European counterpart, American too, does not have chords, harmony, counterpoint or modulation. Rather it is based on melody and rhythm. Raga Sangeet is two thousand years old owing its origins to the Vedic hymns of the Hindu temple.It is, by definition, a spiritual music, one that is made in praise of God.

With that in mind, this album has a different focus if not a dissimilar aim. Here is a recording, a concept album if you like, that has one sole aim - the humanitarian plight of refugees. Those same unfortunate souls fleeing war-torn homelands ravaged by the West. There is no condemnation of the violent acts committed by western powers but a plea for and from those made homeless by wanton acts of savage terror. 

It is an inclusive body of work. It seeks to present how those seeking sanctuary are in reality seeking security for them and their children. It is not much to ask, is it? Geographical borders are man made and have little to with God or Mother Nature and yet the west erects them in an attempt to keep out those they have helped make homeless in the first place.

There are ten tracks in total each a revelation. Some blistering, others haunting yet others softly confident, sweet yet never saccharine. We have orchestral strings accompanying solo sitar, programmed beats, jazz vibes resonate  hip hop songs that act like mantras.

Beyond the experimental is an underlying femininity. Our planet is shown as female and from the idea springs a feminine strength. A common thread that runs throughout the whole project. It is a strength that is both startling, refreshing but also a warning - mother is not happy.

I am so pleased I made this wonderful discovery. A very rewarding album indeed.


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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

Vanessa V Kilmer said...

I'll check her out.