musings on music and life

August 7, 2012

L. Shankar, Abheri, and Shakti

Filed under: Carnatic Music — sankirnam @ 4:31 pm

Thanks to the joys of Youtube, here’s another music clip that I’ve been listening to lately:

It’s from a commercial album of L. Shankar. I would say the ragam is Karnataka Devagandhari rather than Abheri, as the dhaivatham (in the avarohanam (descent)) seems to be the lower one. Abheri, as used by Thyagaraja, has the higher dha (I don’t remember which one is which off the top of my head). If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me and let me know.

This clip demonstrates L. Shankar’s absolute technical mastery and command over the violin – just listen to the incredibly fast tremolos he plays approximately a minute in. He is also not playing an ordinary 4-string violin, but a custom-made 10-string double violin. This covers all the frequencies that the double bass, cello, viola, and violin cover.

L. Shankar initially was brought to the limelight as part of the violin trio (L. Vaidyanathan, L. Subramaniam, and L. Shankar). I had mentioned them earlier in the context of Palghat Mani Iyer. He was part of the group of Carnatic Musicians that studied at Wesleyan university in the 60’s/70’s, and got his Phd from that university (I found his thesis online by searching through ProQuest). His real claim to fame, however, was the group ShaktiShakti initially had 4 members: L. Shankar (violin), Zakir Hussain (tabla), T. H. Vinayakram (ghatam), and John McLaughlin (guitar). It was one of the first “fusion” groups that attempted to blend Indian classical music with Western (Jazz) music, and so there are elements of Carnatic, Hindustani, and Jazz in their albums. Their first album, Natural Elements, is one of my favorites:

Since Jazz and Indian Classical music (both Hindustani and Carnatic) are both highly improvisational, that aspect of those styles of music is maintained. I remember reading a rather telling quote by Trichy Sankaran where he said “Fusion should not become confusion. The artiste should know what he is doing and why. This is only possible if his foundation is rock-solid and his ideas are rooted in tradition. The bottom line for meaningful fusion is discipline, responsibility and aesthetics”. This is why fusion is best left to those who have grown up and internalized musical traditions, rather than amateurs and dabblers. In other words, only highly experienced artists should attempt fusion, not beginners.

UPDATE: Somebody uploaded the recording of the fusion music mentioned in the article above – here is the link:


1 Comment »

  1. […] my previous post, I had linked the famous AIR recording of the jazz session involving Palani Subramania Pillai with […]

    Pingback by Palani Subramania Pillai « musings on music and life — November 29, 2012 @ 10:28 am

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