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April 15, 1996 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-04-15

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 15, 1996

Shankar shakes inspired'U'


Indian sitar virtuoso plays his cool, foreign tunes at Rackham

By Nikhil Chawla
For the Daily
The facial lines might have been more predomi-
nant, the hair had a bit more gray, but once the music
began, the magic was the same. Making his first
appearance in Ann Arbor, Ravi Shankar received a
long standing ovation every time he appeared on or
left the stage.
For this particular concert, he chose an unusual ac-
companiment that included another sitar. His help con-

Ravi Shankar
Rackham Auditorium
April 13, 1996

sisted of two
disciples, sitar-
ist Karthik
Sheshadri and
B i k r a m
Ghoshthe on
the tabla (a
two-piece In-
dian drum).

tion, almost like an invocation of the raga. The notes in
the raga were embellished by sliding the finger slightly
above and below the note, making use of microtones on
either side of the main note. This embellishment was
similar to the vibrato used on string instruments in the
Western Classical tradition. The piece began to gain
some acceleration in thejor, in which rhythmic elements
were added.
Shankar had some very beautiful passage work and
ornamentation high on the si-
tar, which had even the ac- a
companying performers shak- RaV> Si
ing their heads in amazement. d
Sheshadri adequately accom- o
panied the Master, at times L
playing a few octaves lower
than Shankar or repeating a his apab
phrase after it had just been
played. The tabla joined the p he s
sitar in the gat, with both per- layt
formers improvising but al-
ways coming back together in the first beat of the new
Much like a seasoned chamber music group, the
communication between the players was achieved in
a subtle manner, either through eye contact, a nod or
a simple smile. The final climax of the piece was
achieved in the jhala, where Ghosh managed to match
Shankar's every move in the last few cycles of the
The raga Desh was performed next, with the gat
divided into teental (16 beats) for the slow tempo and
ektal (12 beats) for the fast tempo. It seemed that in
order to make up for the short gat section of the
previous piece, Shankar decided to cut short the alap


and jhor sections of this raga, so Ghosh came into the
piece quite early. This raga had some real Ravi Shankar
moments, including a sawal-jabab ("question-an-
swer") section where the Master would play a phrase
and Sheshadri would imitate the same phrase.
The second half of the program was more light-
hearted, including a demonstration of how spoken
syllables are used to indicate a given sound produced
on the tabla. The Maestro would say an endless series
of syllables that Ghosh would play
on the spot. Instead of playing a
tankar raga, a thumri was played, which
gave the performers the freedom
em *-to improvise on different ragas
and folk songs.
It also provided a chance for
-itv to Ghosh to show his virtuosity in an
extended solo that produced an
'tre"astounding range of rhythms and
sounds and earned him a standing
ovation in the middle of the piece.
While Shankar tried to give equal time to both play-
ers, Sheshadri seemed unable to follow Shankar or
grasp his ideas in this piece.
Even at the age of 75 Ravi Shankar does not seem
to have lost much of his physical or mental capability
to play the sitar. The soul and imagination that he
brings to every raga is still ingenious.
At this stage of his career, however, Shankar seems
more interested in using his recitals as a means to train
up-and-coming musicians. While some would com-
plain that this keeps him from playing to his usual
potential, given his depth and breadth of knowledge,
he should be applauded for trying to keep his craft
alive in the next generations to come.

Because ofthe dominance ofthe two sitars, two tambouras
(a stringed instrument plucked throughout to sound the
dominant note of a given composition) were also played
by Paul Livingston and Subhangi.
Shankar began the evening by playing a popular
evening raga called Yaman Kalayan. Unlike most
Western classical music, 90 percent of Indian classi-
cal music is improvised. The basic melodic frame-
work upon which the performer improvises is the
raga. Each raga is based on basic scales and carries its
own mood. The rhythmic framework, or the time
cycle, of a given raga is the tala, which is usually
subdivided (e.g., a bar of 10 beats may be subdivided
as 2-3-2-3 or 3-3-4 or 3-4-3). Yaman Kalayan was
played in Jhaptal, or a cycle of 10 beats.
Shankar began with the alap, a solo exposition sec-

Master sitar player Ravi Shankar played at Rackham on Saturday.

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James Hawes' "A White Mere With
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Ellen Alderman and
Caroline Kennedy
The Right To Privacy
"The Right To Privacy" is a concise,
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sorry state ofprivacy rights in this coun-
The authors' chief bias is toward the
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law. Alderman and Kennedy add drama
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"The Right To Privacy" shows the
impact of privacy law on ordinary

Americans, letting those whose lives
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traffic violations, and emnployers rou-
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"The Right To Privacy" is a must-read
for any citizens concerned with prote*
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- Mary Trombley
Brian Moynahan
The Russian Century
Random House
It is an ambitious project to conden@
a century's worth of history into200
pages and expect it to be both interest-
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Russia. He uses countless sources from
KGB records (where we get a detailed
account of Stalin's paranoid end) and
the personal writings of Russia's many
exiled authors (Boris Pasternak, for
example) to the letters of World War
Two soldiers (both German and Rus-
Certainly, there is an agenda to th
book. Moynahan is the perpetual ske
tic of every politician and political fad
that has swept through Russia. He holds
no reservations about vilifying every
would-be savior of the Russian people
from Czar Nicholas to Boris Yeltsin.
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there are no heroes.
Complete with an introduction by the
Russian poetYevgeny Yevtushenko and
eight pages of powerful photograpli
this book is an invaluable introduction
to the story of a powerful, misguided
and tragic country. It does not simply
inform, it captivates. Necessarily, any
book of this length is limited in how
much detail it can include. Here is where
Moynahan's greatest success lies -he
has selected the most poignant and in-
formative evidence to give every reader
a vivid image of a vast land.
-James Wils

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