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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Reverberations: Anoushka Shankar

    On October 27, Stony Brook University hosted Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the world renowned sitar player, Ravi Shankar, at the Staller Center for the Arts. The Recital Hall radiated a warm ambience that complemented the night’s magnificent performance, highlighted by Shankar’s grace, talent and elegance.

    Accompanying Shankar (sitar), were Jesse Charnow (drums), Clarence Gonsalves (bass), Ravichandra Kulur (flute), Kenji Ota (tanpura), Leo Dombecki (piano), and Tanmoy Bose (tabla). An extremely talented young vocalist, Aditya Prakash, was also present. The music was a mix of eastern rhythm and western flavor.

    The sitar is a string instrument, where plucking lengthens and shortens the strings, creating various moods. It is usually associated with calmness, peace, and meditation. The tanpura, a drone instrument, provides a reference note to which all other notes are matched. The tabla, consisting of two drums, one for each hand, is a percussion instrument used for ‘Taal,’ which is the beat or time measure.

    Indian Classical Music is divided into Southern and Northern Classical, Hindustani and Carnatic, respectively. The differences between them lie in the styles of vocal execution, as well as instrumental accompaniment. In Hindi, microtone, or ‘Shruti,’ makes different compositions sound unique. There are 22 Shrutis.

    In Hindustani music, Shankar’s forte, the main musical dialogue or movement is called ‘Raag,’ composed from any of ten parent scales: various combinations using the seven basic notes, known as the ‘Saptak’: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha and Ni. Variations of notes, ‘Vikrit’ or displaced notes include sharp,’Tivra,’ and flat, ‘Komal.’

    The performances included ‘Prayer in Passing,’ ‘Voice of the Moon,’ ‘Red Sun,’ ‘Mahadeva,’ and other selections from Shankar’s newly released album, Rise.

    All the selections were crowd pleasers, but the best routines were ‘Voice of the Moon’ and ‘Mahadeva.’ ‘Voice of the Moon,’ set to ‘Teentaal,’ or 16 beat measure, the most common, was based on a South Indian composition, and had excellent presentation and execution. When the tempo, or ‘laya,’ quickened, you could see Shankar’s enthusiasm, passion and love for the art. Bose (tabla) is extremely proficient and highly impressive. His fingers played so fast that they were a blur. In fact, all of the other accompaniments are worth special mention too.

    ‘Mahadeva,’ written by Ravi Shankar, was one of the first compositions that Anoushka Shankar learned as a child. ‘Mahadeva,’ another name for Lord Shiva, is one of the trinity in Hinduism, commonly known as the ‘destructor.’ In ancient mythology, He is the creator of dance, and is famous for his ‘Tandava’ dance. ‘Mahadeva’ commences with extremely intense percussion and strings, which the audience praised.

    The evening’s performance was appreciated by all who attended. Rupert Hopkins and his wife, who heard about Shankar on the National Public Radio, were very satisfied. Hopkins commented, ‘She’s magnificent with her own work. [I was] listening to the CD in the car, but she’s even better in person. It’s very rare to be able to sit so close to an international music figure. The Staller Center is a great venue and provides such great opportunities.’

    Fusion, a blend of classical Indian and popular western, and often considered a dilution of tradition and culture, is not always enjoyable, but this was an exception. Her music is inevitably compared with her father’s, but she can definitely hold it on her own.

    Few of us are blessed with such talent, or the ability to overcome that curse of mediocrity. When she started playing, I was immediately moved to tears. She has a charm that moves the heart, and creates ripples within you, and it’s quite inexplicable, unless you were there to observe and experience.

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