Released: 18 October 2010 (UK), 19 October 2010 (US)
|Disc one: Chants Of India (1997)
Disc two: Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India (1976)
|Disc three: Shankar Family & Friends (1974)
I Am Missing You
Disc four: Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India – Live At The Royal Albert Hall (DVD, 1976)
Collaborations, a limited edition box set featuring music by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison, contains three CDs and a DVD, along with a 56-page hardback book containing exclusive photographs and a foreword by Philip Glass.
Rhino Records, long the leading company in deluxe reissues, have collaborated with Dark Horse Records, Harrison’s label to release the lavish numbered set in honour of Shankar’s 90th birthday. The set features three remastered albums in replica 10″ sleeves, and a concert DVD with footage from 1976.
Shankar and Harrison became close friends after the guitarist became a pupil of the Indian musician. Between 1966 and Harrison’s death in 2001 they often performed or recorded together, notably at The Concert For Bangla Desh in 1971 but also on a number of albums.
I went to India in September 1966. When I had first come across a record of Ravi Shankar’s I had a feeling that, somewhere, I was going to meet him. It happened that I met him in London in June, at the house of Ayana Deva Angadi, founder of the Asian Music Circle. An Indian man had called me up and said that Ravi was going to be there. The press had been trying to put me and him together since I used the sitar on Norwegian Wood. They started thinking: ‘A photo opportunity – a Beatle with an Indian.’ So they kept trying to put us together, and I said ‘no’, because I knew I’d meet him under the proper circumstances, which I did. He also came round to my house, and I had a couple of lessons from him on how to sit and hold the sitar.
Beatles fans whose knowledge of Indian music stretches no further than Within You Without You, Love You To and The Inner Light may wish to exercise a degree of caution before investing in Collaborations. The music here is far from Western pop musicians dabbling with sitars in the 1960s, although immersion in the classical Indian styles may prove to be equally rewarding.
The box contains three separate albums, presented in non-chronological order. The first CD is Chants Of India by Ravi Shankar, produced by Harrison and first released in 1997. Previously out of print, Chants Of India was the pair’s final released collaboration.
The album was recorded over three sessions in Madras and London, and contains 16 compositions written by Shankar, over which Vedic verses in Sanskrit are chanted.
Disc two is Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India. The collaboration came about after Harrison invited Shankar and 17 other Indian musicians to record in London. It was the first musical initiative under the auspices of the Material World Charitable Foundation, which encouraged alternative forms of artistic expression and philosophies.
The Ravi Shankar Music Festival brought together respected Indian musicians, including Shivkumar Sharma, Alla Rakha and Sultan Khan, to perform compositions written by Shankar. The album was recorded in five weeks with Harrison producing.
Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India was only previously issued on vinyl, and had been deleted for over 30 years prior to Collaborations. After its initial release in 1976, the collective undertook a European tour which ended with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The third CD is Shankar Family & Friends, dating from 1974. This was the first studio collaboration between Shankar and Harrison, and is the most Western-sounding of the recordings. The musicians included Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner and Harrison himself.
In addition to the English song titles (I Am Missing You, Festivity And Joy and Awakening among them), the instrumentation in places features saxophone, marimba, piano, flute, bass and six-string guitars, drums and echo effects – any of which would have sounded out of place on the other discs.
As far as the collaborations go, Shankar Family & Friends presents the most even mix of East and West. It’s by far the most accessible for those unfamiliar with classical Indian music, and would have made a more logical starting point for the box set.
Indian music was one of George Harrison’s enduring passions, and there has never before been a satisfactory anthology of his links to the genre. While far from comprehensive, Collaborations is a worthwhile purchase for Indian music aficionados and curious newcomers alike, although those hoping to hear Harrison’s voice may be disappointed. Nonetheless, presented with palpable love and attention to detail, Collaborations is a fitting tribute to the work of two great musicians.