The (Kind Of) Complete Woodstock: Ravi Shankar

It’s 10:00 Friday night and raining when sitar master Ravi Shankar takes the stage along with his tabla accompanist, Alla Rakha.  At forty-nine years old Shankar is a generation removed from his audience, but they embrace him.  “Friends,” he says.  “We begin this evening’s recital with an evening raga…”

Apparently Shankar was one of the saner minds at that event, acknowledging that the site was a mess.  After Woodstock he distanced himself from the hippie bandwagoneers who piled on when George Harrison endorsed the sitar virtuoso.  One can hear in Shankar’s thirty-five minute set what so entranced Harrison, though.  The energy and complexity with which Shankar and Rakha played  — especially in an era of blues-based riffing these guys must have sounded on fire.

Shankar’s full set can be found on Ravi Shankar at the Woodstock Festival, which you can find on both vinyl and CD.  Here’s the set list:

  1. Raga Puriya-Dhanashri
  2. Tabla Solo In Jhaptal
  3. Raga Manj Khamaj

As of the date of this piece Ravi Shankar is still going strong at age ninety-two.  In the years since Woodstock he’s continued to make music.  He also made Norah Jones, so there’s that. [Note: Shankar passed away in 2012, after this piece was originally published.]

Your official Woodstock soundtrack count to date: 16

Next week: Melanie

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Update: On August 2, 2019, Rhino Records released Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive and changed the game forever. With exception to two Hendrix tracks and one Sha Na Na cut, the massive box set contains complete sets from every Woodstock artist—even those long believed lost or never recorded.

Here is Shankar‘s set as it appears on the Back to the Garden archive, including announcements, etc.:

1. John Morris – “Somebody somewhere is giving out some flat blue acid”
3. “I would like to introduce the instruments”
6. John Morris – “I guess nobody’s thirsty anymore”

8 replies »

  1. Like Fred and Lachie, I noticed that the “TABLA SOLO IN JHAPTAL” and “RAGA MANJ KMAHAJ” performances on the Rhino “Back To The Garden” set are completely different from those on the “At the Woodstock Festival” LP. However, the first piece, “RAGA PURIYA-DHANASHRI/GAT IN SAWARITAL,” IS the same on both releases. Fred says that the differing pieces were re-performed in a recording studio, but WHY, since the original Woodstock tapes were obviously used for the Rhino box? The re-performed pieces don’t really sound like they were studio recordings — they have the same, lower-quality live sound as the first piece which is the same on both releases. I was going to try locating Richard Bock (the producer of the original LP) to ask him what the heck happened, but unfortunately Bock passed away in 1988. So it’s still kind of a mystery.


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