Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Anoushka Shankar – Traveller – DGG

The latest from another talented daughter of Ravi Shankar.

Published on April 16, 2012

Anoushka Shankar – Traveller – DGG

Anoushka Shankar – Traveller – DGG, 63:06 [3/20/2012] ****:

(Anoushka Shankar – sitar; Javier limon – guitar; Pedro Ricardo Mono – piano; Pinana – Spanish percussion; Juan Ruiz – Spanish percussion; Pepe Habichela – guitar; Sandra Carrasco – voice; Tanmoy Bose – tabla; Bobote & El Electrico – palmas; Duquende – voice; Kenji Ota – tanpura; Pirashanna Thevarajah – mridangam, ghatam, moorsing, kanjira; Concha Buika – voice; Ajay Prasanna – flute; Sanjeev Shankar – shehnai; Mythill Prakash – bhrata-natyam dancer; Farruco – flamenco dancer)

Anoushka Shankar has advanced the mainstream appeal for the sitar. Forty-five years ago, her father Ravi became an inspiration to the rock establishment (especially George Harrison), and the unusual “sympathetic string” instrument began to evolve beyond Indian classical music. Anoushka Shankar has developed a broadened world music context for the sitar. She released her self-titled debut which featured traditional music. The subsequent release, Live At Carnegie Hall earned her first Grammy nomination (2003; ironically in the same year as her half-sister Norah Jones). A creative departure permeated her 2007 project, Breathing Under Water which merged classical sitar and electronic. She has performed with Sting, Lenny Kravitz and Herbie Hancock.

In 2011, Shankar decided to record an album that drew on Eastern-influenced flamenco. (It is widely thought that this musical form has its roots in 9th century India.)  With a combination of traditional and jazz players, Traveller is a twelve-track foray into hybrid music. Produced by guitarist Javier Limon, the music is exciting and unpredictable. The full effect of this stylistic fusion can be heard on “Buleria Con Ricardo”. With a dazzling sitar lead, a rhythmic flow is established. Pianist Pedro Ricardo Mono rolling chords are a perfect foil for Shankar as the jam explodes with flourishes. On “Boy Meets Girl” the inimitable Pepe Habichuela contributes graceful acoustic guitar riffs against the evocative sitar runs. This duet is a natural fusion of two divergent tones. The combination of percussion comes together on pieces like the title cut. The pulsating tempo and stringed instrumentals are riveting.

The incomparable Shankar can transition with ease. Her ability to back vocals (in this case for Duquende) or improvise is effective.  “Kanya”, a co-written song with vocalist Sandra Carrasco is evocative and relies on subtle tempo patterns. Not all of the music is tied to the fusion construct. “Krishna” is a lyrical traditional exploration with a simple arrangement of flute (Ajay Prasanna), tabla (Tanmoy Bose) and voice (Shubha Mudgal). Another extended jam, “Bhiravi,” is very cohesive with sitar, tabla and tanpura (Kenji Ota).  However, the more specific flamenco/traditional numbers are captured in aesthetic textures. “Casi Uno” (with an emotional vocal turn by Concha Buika) has a Spanish folk ambiance. The final track (“Lola’s Lullaby”) has a hushed resonance that transcends any category

Traveller is daring…and better for it.

TrackList: Inside Me; Buleria Con Ricardo; Krishna; Si No Puedo Verla; Dancing In Madness; Boy Meets Girl; Kanya; Traveller; Ishq; Casi Uno; Bhairavi; Lola’s Lullaby

—Robbie Gerson

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