Ananda Shankar Experience and State of Bengal Walking On


Ananda Shankar was never the classical Indian maestro of the sitar that his uncle, Ravi Shankar, has demonstrated to the world. He wasn’t even the first Indian musician to take the fusion route outside the Indian film industry, yet within the Indian music scene — R.D. Burman accomplished the former with spectacular results, as did Ravi Shankar in the latter. Ananda, however, became a legend in the mid-‘90s, once Gilles Peterson and other DJs in the British jazz-funk scene discovered that his sitar-rock covers of "Light My Fire" and "Jumping Jack Flash," as well as his own compositions like "Streets of Calcutta" and "Dancing Drums" had the funk. Original vinyl copies of those recordings have since been selling for triple digits, in pounds no less. Walking On is his first album in about 20 years, featuring DJ State of Bengal (of Anokha fame) on bass and programming with a cast of other musicians prior to Ananda's death last year. It follows with a similar feel of his previous recordings, oscillating between being cross-culturally engaging and unbearably sentimental. "Pluck" and "Betelnutters" show Shankar performing comfortably within a drum & bass setting, yet with greater musicianship than one usually finds in the more DJ-oriented sounds of the “Asian underground.” "Tori," "Alma Ata" and "Love and Passion" continue in the ‘70s sitar-rock style, while "Tanusree" and the title track show experiments between Indian and Western folk traditions. However, the live versions of "Jungle Symphony" and "Streets of Calcutta" are the ones that reveal Shankar at his best, jamming with back and forth between the drummer and the tabla player. His style isn't deeply meditative, nor does it set out to be. It simply rocks, albeit in a different language, and that's rare in such instances of east-west fusion. (Real World)