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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