Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Live at Monterey
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Pop
Listen to Samples
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3.8 stars, but please hear me out.
Pharoah S. Wail | Inner Space | 12/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are two ways to consider this performance/album. 1) It's impact at the time, and 2) It's musical value within the context of comparing it to other Hindustani artists/performances/recordings.
By the first standard, this performance is a 5. Hindustani LPs had been coming out in the USA since 1955, and some people were listening. Consider that John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar had been corresponding at least as early as 1961... more like '59 or '60 if memory serves. This was not widespread music here though, and the Beatles only used Ravi and the sitar as sound effects in the "Ooooh that is trippy and groovey, man" sort of way. For many people in the USA this performance/album was their first exposure to the music of Northern India, and as such, of course it holds a special place in the history of this music.
By the 2nd standard though... holding this up next to other Bhimpalasi performances, and or other recordings/performances of other ragas by other artists, this is more like a 3.8 performance. It's not that it isn't good, but let's face it, there is alot of stiff, brilliant competition in the world of Hindustani music. Ravi's affiliation with the Beatles, and Harrison's constant (for decades) hyperbole as to Ravi's status and ability within that world have hyped Ravi up to a level to which he does not actually stand. Were you to believe Harrison's constant blathering, you'd think the Hindustani world is Ravi bathed in light on the mountain top while all the other musicians gaze up at his artistry, hoping one day to attain half his brilliance. That is absolutely not the case, though. Of course proving this to people is often difficult because many of the people who believe Ravi to be The One & Only have never heard any other sitarists. They just took Harrison's word for it and left it at that.
I don't want anyone to just take my word for it. If you like or love this disc, particularly the alap, jor, and jhalla in Raga Bhimpalasi, I strongly recommend that you search "Nikhil Banerjee". Then scroll through his recordings until you reach the "Afternoon Ragas" disc. There you get Rags Bhimpalasi and Multani. There is no comparison between Nikhil's rendering and Ravi's. On this disc, Ravi's alap is not much to speak of, and it is almost just a time-killer until the jor and jhalla. Nikhil's alap is a masterwork. He plays some phrases that unfold around you and crawl right into your heart... his melodic brilliance singing to you from the alap through the gats.
I think for most people, the highlight of Ravi at Monterey is actually the dhun. Again I would point you to Nikhil and Kanai Dutta's gats in Bhimpalasi and Multani. The tone, and melodic genius of Nikhil cannot be denied, and as for the style and explosive dexterity of Kanai Dutta, I feel his playing serves as more of a precursor to Zakir Hussain's playing style than did Zakir's own father, Alla Rakha (Ravi's accompanist here, on tabla). In truth, Ravi was not even Allauddin Khan's (Ali Akbar Khan's father) best sitar student, much less the all-time greatest sitarist of the 20th Century.
If you need more proof, look no further than Amjad Ali Khan (sarod) and/or Debashish Bhattacharya's (slide guitar) incredibly powerful renderings of Bhimpalasi. Ravi's performance here is by no means bad, but it generally only stands out as a masterpiece to those who have yet to check out anyone else in the world of Hindustani music.
Having said all this, this performance is easily the highlight of the entire Monterey Pop festival."
M.Burt | DC | 03/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of all Ravi Shankar recordings I have heard (7-8) this is definitely the most "festive." I find few very quiet, personal moments on this CD (I mean this in a positive way.) This is a live recording and the crowd is very much a part of the mix without interfering with the musical quality. You can feel the energy and dialogue between Ravi, Alla Rakha, and the crowd. Very bright and vibrant. This is the Ravi Shankar disc I play when I want to awaken, move quickly, smile, go out in the bright sun. I find it less appropriate for late evening introspection and quietness. One does not have to be a trained listener of Raga to understand that Ravi specifically chose these ragas for the outdoor Monterey Pop Festival. This recording is a real treat from the percussion end as well, as Alla Rakha is truly explosive on the tabla here."
Gary L. Salamone | Houston, TX United States | 11/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of those awesome live recordings that truly captures the joy of the moment. Review the film and you will regret those moments when the camera is panning off somewhere else when it should be focused on the stage! The Dhun (based on folk melodies)is so bouyant and joyful. The audience is drawn into the performance so deeply that by time the exchange between sitar and tabla concludes they are ready to react with thunderous applause and cheering. Ravi was definitely in exceptionally rare form that afternoon. You will miss Alla Rakha as much as I do after listening to the tabla accompaniment. Bhimpalasi is astounding! Listen and you will understand the beauty and power of the Indian raga. A very transporting piece! This recording is a reflection of the good vibrations in the air on that great day when Ravi played to a crowd as a relatively unknown musician and charmed the masses. Yes, Mama Cass said it best, "Oh, Wow!" Read her lips!"