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I’ve had an interest in Indian culture and World Music for
a long time. Therefore, “Ravi Shankar: The Concert for
World Peace,” which was filmed in November 1993
at the Royal Albert Hall in London, seemed like something
I should watch. It was released on DVD in 2007 by the
A & E label. I must say that I wasn’t disappointed.

During the latter half of the 20th Century and into the
21st Century, Shankar (1920-2012) was the primary figure
in Indian music. He inspired and mentored many “Western”
musicians including Yehudi Menuhin, George Harrison and
Philip Glass, to name a few. Therefore, it is impossible to
calculate the dimensions of his influence.

At the 1993 concert, Shankar was joined by tabla virtuoso,
Zakir Hussain (1951 – ) and a Shankar protégé, sarod player
Partho Sarathy (1960 – ). Two female tamboura players
provided the important “drone” functions.

Each section of this 90-minute concert was divided into
different parts, which presumably focused on different ragas.
These melodic modes are some of the basic components of
Indian classical music, and were explained in detail in the
accompanying bonus feature. Shankar introduced each
section of the concert from the stage.

While I found the harmonic repetition somewhat numbing,
I was fascinated by the intricacies of this music. Obviously,
I need to acquire greater knowledge of Indian classical music
and performance practice, which differs greatly from my
Western musical background. Apparently, the primary
emphasis is on rhythms versus harmonies. Speaking of
which, during the performance, Zakir Hussain managed to play
a bass tabla with his left hand, while simultaneously playing
the right tabla with lightning-fast finger patterns. A “call and
response” format was often used between the three
primary musicians.

The aforementioned bonus feature was an informative,
21-minute documentary entitled, “Ravi Shankar: The Soul of
Tradition.” For me, it was every bit as important and
interesting as the concert. This film was probably completed
years after the concert, at a time that was closer to its release
on DVD. It featured discussions about Indian music and
performing by Ravi Shankar, his daughter Anoushka (1981 – )
who is a noted sitarist in her own right, his sister-in-law, vocalist
Lakshmi Shankar (1926 – 2013), composer Philip Glass (1937 – ),
and Zakir Hussain. I was particularly interested in Glass’ insights
which compared and contrasted Eastern versus Western
music making. Given his experience with both forms and his
stature as a minimalist, I found his input to be most informative.
In addition, Anoushka Shankar eloquently discussed written
versus improvised Indian classical music. In fact, I should have
watched this documentary more than once!

This was a fine DVD overall, which was well recorded and filmed.
In the future, I plan to explore Indian music and learn more
about its rules and traditions in greater depth.