Global Groove

Chip off the old block: Anoushka Shankar, 17, makes an impressive debut.

New CDs offer world of sound

By Greg Cahill

Anoushka Shankar Anoushka Angel

SITAR GREAT Ravi Shankar once said it would take more than one lifetime to master his multistringed instrument. If reincarnation is a reality, Shankar may get his chance to forge ahead with his work. But at least the Shankar family will get a couple of generations to explore that complex artform. The debut recording by Anoushka Shankar, Ravi’s 17-year-old daughter, proves that his progeny has not only talent, but the name and enough good looks to snare a major label recording contract in the United States. That’s something that has eluded most Indian classical players over the years, despite the barriers surmounted by Ravi Shankar, who, as a mentor to George Harrison of the Beatles and a performer in the landmark 1967 concert “Monterey Pop,” introduced Indian music to mainstream U.S. audiences. Anoushka reverently performs only compositions by her famous father, a series of five ragas. And even if she is yet to be blessed by his spellbinding speed, the younger Shankar shows that she’s got the stuff.

Various Artists The Bali Sessions Rykodisc

GRATEFUL DEAD drummer Mickey Hart journeyed to the Indonesian island of Bali last year with his family in search of a little R&R, but the trip turned out to be a busman’s holiday. Recording equipment in tow, Hart took full advantage of his visit to this musically rich region, culminating in what he describes in the liner notes as a “magical” marathon session taping local gamelan players. The result is a three-CD collection of trancelike rhythmic percussion by world-class gamelan orchestras. Mesmerizing metallic and wooden instruments (occasionally accompanied by voices, flute, or two-string fiddle) are played in complex cycles that chime their way into the consciousness–what Hart calls “a rainbow of sound,” alternately peaceful and exhilarating. While most gamelan songs are tightly arranged and allow for little improvisation (the driving, unified force of the music is part of its powerful beauty), Hart includes a disc of experimental music that echoes his own ’70s-era Diga project and his electronic explorations. A fascinating audio travelogue.

Ibrahim Ferrer The Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer World Circuit

THE FOLKSY 1998 recording The Buena Vista Social Club, produced by Ry Cooder, captured some of Cuba’s finest veteran players in a stripped-down backyard setting. That album, featuring players who rarely if ever had been heard by U.S. audiences, helped launch the Cuban music craze. It also was one of the year’s runaway hits. The title of this recording suggests The Buena Vista Social Club II, but it’s a distinctive recording in its own right. Ferrer often is hailed as the last of the great bolero singers, crooning rich romantic ballads in a sort of lo-fi ballroom style that is absolutely seductive. This is the debut recording for the 72-year-old vocalist, who is accompanied by the cream of the Cuban music kingdom, including pianist Ruben Gonzalez, tres guitarist Papi Oviedo (who released a great 1997 album on the Rohnert Park-based Tinder label), and dozens of top Cuban jazz players. Ferrer is a real treasure–wish him a long life and many more chances to charm us.

DJ Cheb i Sabbah Shri Durga Six Degrees

ONE OF the summer’s hottest global beat CDs is a historic collaboration of Indian DJ Cheb i Sabbah and a host of Hindustani classical musicians, weaving traditional ragas and Muslim prayers with contemporary dance beats in a postmodern tour de force. And, yes, avant jazz and rock producer and bassist Bill Laswell has his imprint all over this project. The spiritual and sensual clash is a suitable soundtrack for tantric sex–or maybe just for lounging around on a lazy day.

Amadou et Marian Sou ni Tile Tinder

THEIR STORY is the stuff of legends: Both blind, they meet, fall in love, travel together, write gorgeous melodies together, perform together, raise three children together. Marian Doumbia and Amadou Bagayoko–known throughout West Africa as the Blind Couple of Mali–pen and perform songs that exude a warmth so intense you feel as if you’ve known them all your life, yet the material is so rich that even after repeated listening you are still filled with wonder. Celine Dion should be so lucky–or talented.

Various Artists The Rough Guide to the Music of Eastern European World Music Network

NOW THAT the U.S. government has spent billions of tax dollars bombing the bejeesus out of Yugoslavia, you might want to plunk down 15 bucks to savor the rich cultural diversity of that war-torn region. This is one of the most recent compilations in the Rough Guide series–other recent recordings focus on Cajun and zydeco, and the music of Portugal, Native Americans, and English roots–and, as with other Rough Guide releases, it is an effective primer to the region’s music. Actually, you won’t get to hear any Serbian songs (which are quite beautiful and well worth pursuing), but there is plenty of other music from the Balkans region, which is as Balkanized musically as it is politically. The Turkish-flavored dance tune “Spune, Spune, Mos Batrin,” a contagious folksy number by the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, is worth the price of admission alone. Let’s hope Romania will stay in our good graces and out of our bombsights.

From the June 24-30, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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