Venue:Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver
Date:8 October, 2002
Reviewer: June Heywood
The line-up for "rush" tickets snaked around the block but
I doubt if any of these hopefuls made it into the Orpheum on Tuesday evening
as the auditorium was packed with people who had purchased their tickets much
earlier. The couple sitting behind me had flown over from Germany to attend
this (the only Canadian) concert to be given by Legendary Sitar Virtuoso Ravi
Shankar and his 22-year old daughter Anoushka Shankar.
In a bright orange sari, her long wavy hair tied back, Ms Shankar embodied a young woman of grace and beauty between two cultures. The fingers of her left hand skipped up and down the long-necked sitar to create the sound of gentle rain, deep sorrow, laughter, and running feet. At the end of her first solo she took the loud applause with obvious humility.
Huge applause also followed the abrupt, loud ending by Bikram Ghosh and Tanmoy Bose the guest tabla players at the end of the second piece. Tabla is the overall term for two drums which are played as accompaniment to North Indian music and dance. With head wobbles to express their pleasure and appreciation for one another's improvisation, Mr Ghosh and Mr Bose wove intricate rhythms with the base of their palms as their fingers flew with great variations in sound on the tops and sides of their instruments. In the background, two students gave the essential drone to all Indian music on their four-stringed instruments.
After the intermission, knighted 82 year old Ravi Shankar followed his daughter and the other musicians onto the stage. This "Godfather of World Music" as the late George Harrison called him, dedicated the program "to Daniel Pearl (the assassinated American journalist). The first piece Ravi Shankar played with his eyes shut. It sounded like a lament with squeaks of sorrow that made the tabla players shake their heads in admiration.
Anoushka, the only person to be completely trained by her father, kept her eyes on him as his left-hand fingers skimmed the strings. With each unvoiced command, her nimble fingers joined his. Together their two sitar blended as one to honour the slain journalist.
There were a couple of glitches in the show. The sound person was asked on a few occasions to turn up the tabla mikes and both sitars took time to tune. During an exceptionally long wait, Ravi Shankar quipped, "We all need to tune our discordant notes to get in tune properly.
As the second half of the program progressed, the audience whooped as the sound was turned up. The ragas and folk tunes flowed from the sitars as though the music had rushed in from all over the East. The sound of the full, throaty tablas interchanged with the players beating time with their palms together and then the back of a hand on the palm. Fingers were fleet as bodies and instruments talked then were still. Instantly, there was a standing ovation. Despite the roar of the crowd for an encore, none was given. It was past 11 pm and Mr Shankar, "India's most esteemed musical ambassador" was visibly tired.
As a performer, composer, teacher, and writer, Mr Shankar has done more to bring Indian music to the West than anyone. Since the 1960's, he has collaborated with musicians of different gendres such as the Beatles, John Coltrane, and Yehudi Menuhin. This may have been Mr Shankar's last Canadian concert but his influence on music is assured with worldwide audiences from all generations. Anoushka's career is blossoming. She already has a strong international reputation and she is poised to carry her father's legacy forward as one of the most creative and influential figures in the music world. The past meets the present and the future is assured. The Shankar father and daughter have come full circle.
© 2002 June Heywood