By Stephen Brookes
The Washington Post • October 15, 2007
It would be hard to overstate the influence of Ravi Shankar on music in the late 20th Century. The sitar virtuoso brought the classical music of India to Western audiences virtually single-handedly, becoming – in George Harrison’s famous phrase – “the godfather of world music.” But clearly he’s not quite done. Still touring at the venerable age of 87, Shankar came to the Kennedy Center on Saturday afternoon and displayed much of the insight and profound musicianship that have made him a legend.
Accompanied by his 26-year-old daughter Anoushka and a small ensemble, Shankar performed two rarely-heard ‘afternoon’ ragas – “Bhimpalasi” and “Pancham Se Gara” – playing on a small, amplified sitar. It was an astonishing performance for a man his age, with moments of great beauty, and his focus never flagged throughout the afternoon. But he’s undeniably frail, now, and it showed; the fingers no longer move with the graceful fluidity of his youth, and his playing felt strained and effortful, with only traces of the explosive vitality he once brought to the sitar.
Anoushka ShankarBut as Shankar nears the end of his career, his youngest daughter Anoushka is just beginning hers. One of the leaders of the emerging "second generation" of Indian musicians, she’s been pushing out the boundaries of Indian music, integrating it with electronica and pop. But she showed herself on Saturday to be a master of the classical sitar as well, taking a deferential approach to her father but outplaying him at every turn. Marrying a sinuous, electrifying technique with a profound sense of conviction, it was clear she is her father’s daughter in every way; it would have been gratifying if he'd let her play more.
Tanmoy Bose provided able, low-key accompaniment on tabla with Ravichandra Kulur on the south Indian drum called the kanjira, while Kenji Ota and Dave Cipriani played the tanpura.