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LPs from the Attic: Ananda Shankar — Ananda Shankar and His Music

February 17, 2011

Ananda Shankar — Ananda Shankar and His Music (EMI/Fallout, 1975)

Far too often in music (and in cooking, but that’s another story entirely), “fusion” ends up as code for “something that ties two or more distinct things together to the disservice of all involved.” But, when Ananda Shankar’s take on East-meets-West works–and it does more often than not–his marriage of Western electronic psychedelia and traditional Indian instrumentation ranks among the best of the style.

Shankar (the answer’s yes: Ravi is his uncle) creates lively, compelling soundscapes on 1975’s “…and His Music.” Moody Moogs punctuate charging drum beats while blue-movie wah-wah guitars provide a chugging backdrop for synth, string, and flute-based melodies. The largely instrumental album contains only a few cheesy moments, given the Western elements in vogue at the time. Overall, it’s fun, upbeat, inventive stuff that blends well the trippy, psychedelic conventions of Western rock of the period with trance-inducing tabla and sitar-laden Indian music.

Forget about Ravi and the Beatles–I’d rather have seen Ananda open for Hendrix (yes, it happened). Rather than just tacking on some Indian instrumentation to rock songs like the Beatles or The Byrds did, Ananda possessed particular skill in creating more harmonious mixtures; he also had a pleasing affinity for taking an instrument associated with one style or playing method and using it outside of its expected “comfort zone,” as with his employment of the Moog to conjure up sitar-like melodies.

Shankar’s jams and heady soundtracks prove that fusion needn’t always be viewed with suspicion.

Recommended listening:

Dancing Drums

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One Comment
  1. July 11, 2011 11:35 am

    hey im so into Ananda’s music and his sitar funk, thought you might be interested to know that there is a new album coming out called unearthed full of previously unreleased tracks by Ananda Shankar, i managed to find one of the songs that will be on it, it’s called Payal and it’s on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbqoGgzN5OE
    I absolutely love the drums at the beginning and it goes into such virtuosity and from what i read of your post you seem to like his music so thought you might be as excited as i am about this new album, check out the song if you can!

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