The Sounds of India – Ravi Shankar (1968)

Album no. 111/1001

Ravi Shankar is one artist that’s become synonymous with Indian music. He almost single-handedly brought Indian music to a western audience, and this album is a great little way to give it a go.

It’s almost more of an educational lesson in the sitar and indian musical theory, with each song including Ravi giving a run-down on the time signatures and melodies specific to that song. Basically, a dummies guide to Indian music.  

Have you listened to this album before?

CL: No. No no no no.

NK: No, but I’ve seen the evening raga that he did at woodstock when it was raining. Also I’ve heard Their Satanic Majesties Delight and the track on Sgt Peppers. That’s about as close as I get, with the notable exception of Call of The Valley a few weeks back.

Standout track

CL: I suppose it has to be the first one ‘An Introduction To Indian Music’, purely for educational reasons. To be honest, I still don’t really get it – just because you count to 16 really fast means they play sort of fast? I don’t know. I’m not a musical theorist at the best of times.

NK: I think the most useful track is ‘An Introduction To Indian Music’, where Ravi literally talks us through the instruments and some basic music theory (“Ragas are precise melody forms. A Raga is not a mere scale”). At the beginning of ‘Maru-Bihag’ he talks us through the 2-3-2-3 timing, but I still didn’t get it. ‘Dadra’ was my favourite of the songs. It’s a bit more upbeat and exciting, slowly building to a peak just before the end. ‘Sindhi-Bhairavi’ is really different, quite spooky.

When would be the best time to listen to this?

CL: Look. If this is your jams and your resolution for 2017 is to embrace an eastern philosophy this is probably a good starting point. If you listen to it enough times you might become an expert on ragas and then start wearing harem pants permanently. I’m not against that, I just can’t wear harem pants – they make me look like a potato in a sack… I’ve revealed too much.

NK: I agree with Ravi, you need a relaxed and open mind! I think this will get easier with multiple listens, because it all still sounds a bit samey to me at the moment. I think the best way to understand this might be to learn how to play it. I would sign up for the Ravi Shankar youtube course, but I don’t have a sitar.

Why has this album been included on the list?

CL: I’d say this is probably the first album to fall into the “educational” category on this list. I’m all for it, I just can’t get around the sitar for a solid 53 minutes.

NK: Ravi Shankar was a pretty big deal all round. He was at Woodstock, he did movie scores, he won grammy awards, and is as responsible as anybody for that sitar track on Sgt Peppers. Also, from what you hear of his voice on this album, he was a bloody lovely bloke. This album is really helpful with describing the way the music works, although I think I would need repeat listens to start figuring it out.

Will you be listening again?  

CL: Nah, I think I’ve given the old Indian vibes a good go and they’re just not for me.

NK: I’d like to! I really had to pay attention for this album, and it can be difficult to find the time to do that at the moment.

Rating

CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

NK: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

Listen to The Sounds of India on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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