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Shankar lively and vital

Anoushka Shankar, August 10, 2006

The Vancouver Sun

by David Gordon Duke

For the ever-growing world music audience, Anoushka Shankar’s Thursday performance at the Chan Centre was the much anticipated highlight of this year’s Festival Vancouver.

Opening for Shankar was Dharmakasa, a shakuhachi, strings and percussion trio which presented affable but unremarkable music that was given spice and flavour by the enchanting timbres of a raft of exotic instruments.

Shankar is a sitar player of distinction. Her current Rise tour is in support of a recent CD that blends traditional Indian instruments, piano, bass, and electronics.

Shankar’s repertoire, an eclectic mixture of styles and idioms, defies easy classification. Her Indian classical roots are never far from the surface. Throughout her performance she includes a number of “extended traditional” selections’ showcasing the impressive skills of tabla player Tanmoy Bose, percussionist Pirashanna Thevarajah, and the evocative vocals of Aditya Prakash.

But during the course of nearly a dozen short (by Indian standards) selections, the bulk of her program employs electronics and various contemporary idioms. Though just in her mid-20s, Shankar is an emerging composer with lively ideas and imagination. Not every selection is a complete success: a flamenco influenced trio for piano, sitar, and electronics started well but in short order became a predictable interplay of stereotypical licks. Nor was the breezy quasi pop number Rebirth as taut in performance as it might have been.

Yet many other selections had both character and vitality. At this stage in her development; Shankar is rather overfond of portentous electronic pads and inclined to fussy, dense textures. The relative simplicity of a single sitar solo with electronic backup ¬∑showed Shankar’s considerable lyrical gifts, made all the more lovely by contrast.

No doubt some classical purists regret the direction Shankar is currently exploring. Her just-beginning journey as a composer, however, is one of considerable interest.

Sat Aug 12, 2006