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on October 21, 2000
Even in this supposedly digital age, all most Americans know about India beyond turbans and the Taj Majal is the sound of the sitar. I've never understood how anyone could hear this beautiful music and not want to learn more about it, and the tradition it comes from.
To me, classical Indian music has no equal as a source of solace and inspiration. It's impossible to give it a serious listen without closing your eyes and drifting off on a journey of imagination. It's truly an auditory narcotic: the mind simply refuses to be tied down.
It isn't just Indian, either, it's pan-Asian: the basic instruments come from ancient Persia; in the tremelos and melting notes of the lower range, one hears the echoes of a Moslem cantor. At the opposite end of the register, the plucked note progressions are reminiscent of Oriental lutes that float about like auditory calligraphy.
There are a few things that make it truly Indian, though: its origin as the artistic medium of religious expression at the intersection of all the Old World religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. It's the perfect melding of the eastern- and westernmost musical traditions of Asia. This is best realized not even in the sitar, but in the tambura, that never-ending, metallic, atonal drone in the background which performs roughly the same function that bass does in Western music. But while so much simpler in form -- every work is based on a single chord -- it's so much more in fact: it's eternal; it never changes. It's an auditory umbilical to antiquity.
In a world where lip-synching during a choreographed dance routine qualifies airheaded teenagers as "superstars," Shankar's reputation as "the Godfather of World Music" (George Harrison) is genuine. He is a visitor from another time, a thousand years ago, when one man could embody an enormous artistic tradition and a vast, ancient country.
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on August 20, 2004
This was the first recording of Indian music that I bought, not because I needed an introduction, but simply because it was the only decent CD of Indian music that my local record store had. Let me just say that I am so glad that I ran into this one. I don't usually like to buy albums with explanations of the music recorded by the artist; I find it much more revelatory to dive right into the real thing, and for that reason I almost didn't get this. But something told me to buy it, and once I put it on, I realized that it IS the real thing. Indian ragas are generally longer than the ones here, but Ravi manages to fit all the emotion and sincerity he puts into his 30-minute ragas into these ones as well. And I actually did learn some things from his mini-lessons.

There's not really any point in trying to describe the ragas on this album (or any other album). They're so complex and intricate that the only thing one could really talk about is the scales they use and what sort of rhythms are played. But if I've got you interested yet, then you'll buy the CD and learn about all of that from Ravi's explanations. If you don't care about that sort of stuff, then you probably won't like the music.

A little education-
Indian ragas are based on scales and modes. In fact, the word "raga" means "scale." The basic structure of a raga begins with the alap section, in which the main instrument (in this case, the sitar) plays freely, accompanied only by the drone instrument (sometimes not). This is where the basic scale is first introduced. The sitarist then introduces the element of rhythm, but very slowly. The percussion (tablas in this case) comes in and introduces the tala, which is the time signature. Unlike most western music, Indian music can have all kinds of different time signatures. The ones on this album aren't too complicated, but some can be very complex and confusing. The sitar & tablas sort of jam on the raga for awhile before they play the last part of the raga. The tempo increases and they basically go insane. And then the raga ends, leaving you in a cloud of dust.

A raga can be compared to many things: an adventure, a story, a journey... But above all, it's a spiritual experience that is shared by the musicians.

Lastly, I would like to comment on the previous reviewers' references to drugs in relation to this music. In Ravi's autobiography he states how disgusted he was when he saw the audience at the Monterey Pop festival sitting there stoned out of their minds on all kinds of drugs, not really being able to fully take in the beauty of his music. About this, Ravi said, "My music can take you to a higher state of awareness on its own, without the usage of drugs." It is really a disrespect to listen to Ravi's music while under the influence of drugs. A lot of people seem to think that Eastern music and hallucinogens go hand in hand, but that is really a stereotype that was made up in the 1960s by middle-class white kids. But aside from that, do whatever you want. This music will show you the truth on its own.
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on May 3, 2006
As great as the music is, if you are distracted by the presence of vocals...then buyer beware. Ravi does a fair share of talking on this CD...and while the info is interesting enough...some listeners may find the vocals distracting. I would recommend the CD "Three Ragas" as the best, vocal-free Shankar CD.
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on May 24, 2000
I was first introduced to Ravi Shankar and his music through the Concert For Bangladesh album; I was a schoolboy of about 9 when I first heard it, and had the pleasure of seeing the master perform in December 1996, kicking off his "75th year" tour. One need not know the technical concepts and terms used in music (scale, metre, etc.) to enjoy this CD, although it does help. Sitar music is "feel" music, like most classical forms. Thus one is able to experience some of the composer's and/or performer's intent when listening. It is a highly recommended CD for neophyte listeners, students, and fans alike.
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on March 23, 2007
I owe a lot to this album. I was just seventeen years old in 1993, in southwest Kansas when I bought it. Believe me, southwest Kansas, though I love the land, is devoid of culture outside of farmer/rancher/Mexicano. It was the first foreign music I heard, though I heard the sitar a few times in Beatles music. I bought it on a whim. It was a real daring thing for a Mexican/American in middle America. The minute I heard the first tones, I was hooked, and the rest is history. Shortly after that, I bought Vidwan: Music of South India -- Songs of the Carnatic Tradition. Since then, I have gotten countless Hindustani and Carnatic CD's, as well as music from Nepal. I wrote my senior term paper about Hindustani Music, started learning Hindi, started eating Indian food, began playing the tabla, and as a dream come true, I went to India with my wife in 2005 for two months. I guess you could say I fell in love with India, and it all started with this album. Shows you what music can do.

Onto the review - I love the main intro as well as the intros to each of the ragas. The music is very good, and although the developments of the ragas are short, they adequately express the beauty contained within the ragas. There are, of course, better albums out there, but this is very good intro to the world of Hindustani Music. Buy this and you will be pleased. For a kick, buy it with Vidwan: Music of South India -- Songs of the Carnatic Tradition, so as to get a real feel of both the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions. Both of them were released in 1968, both are very classy, and both are available on this site.

Try it out, it'll take you far like it has me...
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on March 16, 2000
This was my first Sitar CD as well...7+ years ago, and it tipped off a passion for Indian Classical music that persists today. To add to the previous reviews, the segments of verbal instruction for me are still very interesting and do not interupt the instrumental experience. Much of the instruction takes the form of "singing" the rhythm of the coming it is very "musical" itself. I now have 7-8 Ravi Shankar CDs and 50-60 by other Indian musicians...still I find this one to be among my 2 favorites. Ravi expresses much depth and dynamism without becoming overly melancholy. Excellent production value. Call me trite, but the classic, youthful Ravi image makes for supreme cover art as well!
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on August 8, 1999
This is my first sitar c.d. Ravi Shankar explains how sitar music works. Then there is 4 songs that are the best I have ever heard!!! My favorite is Maru-Bihag. I am only 13 years old, but some day I want to visit India and learn to play the sitar!! Ravi Shankar is the BEST!!!
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on December 17, 2010
I have owned this CD for almost 20 years, and for most of them I considered it (and Ravi Shankar) to be typical of Indian Classical music for the sole reason that I had not heard any other examples.

In short, I found the music uninspired and suited mostly for ambient/background listening. I did, however, appreciate the spoken introduction to the system of raga and tala and often tried my best to count the beats as long as I could keep up (which was invariably not very long at all).

It was not until the Internet made available a much broader horizon that I began to explore other exponents of Indian Classical music, drawn by the skill and emotional expression of players such as Vilayat Khan, his brother Imrat Khan, Nikhil Banerjee and various others who have long been considered among the greatest sitarists of Hindustani music.

Since then, I have listened again to many of Pandit Ravi Shankar's performances hoping to experience the visceral, emotional involvement that I have felt listening to so many other world-class sitarists, but I have not.

Technically, Pt. Ravi Shankar is among the best. His technique is, to the ear, indistinguishable from any other accomplished player's. It is in the much less quantifiable area of feeling and emotion that I am unable to fully appreciate his playing, and this may well be my own shortcoming or incompatibility.

As always, in any artistic medium, one's masterpiece is another's waste of time. Now that samples of virtually every kind of music are readily available on the Internet, we can listen to and select the artists that 'speak to' us individually.

My goal in writing this review is to encourage those who have just become drawn to or interested in Indian Classical (or any other) music to listen to more than one 'typical' example - you may be surprised.
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on August 31, 2005
The other reviews are good, so I'll try to say what has not been covered:

This recording is like having a 40 minute introduction to classical Indian sitar music - Mr. Shankir talks a little bit about the musical foundation of each piece, illustrates this by playing the "scale" of the piece, then plays a selection. There are 4 selections, so about 10 min each. You learn that each "raga" is for a certain time of day.

The recording is old and thus not as clear as things recorded in the digital age. But the playing is phenomenal. Worth getting if you want a piece of pure, old-fashioned, authentic Indian sitar music. I saw Mr. Shankir lecture back in the early 80s, and figured out that there is much more to this music than can be conveyed in one album - even if he lectured the whole time. But this is a good intro.
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on November 25, 2014
I didn't know it but I like Indian music and the Sitar. Thanks to this CD I now know more about it and the music of India. Ravi Shankar is a very famous man who made music from India popular and I can understand why he make it easy to listen to. He was a great teacher and he is missed.
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