Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pandit Ravi Shankar, 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012

By now, I'm sure everyone has heard the sad news.

Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha

I wanted to share the story of how Ravi Shankar was responsible for my path in life.

At age 18, I was living on my own, and casting about for something to do in between trying to finish high school and bike couriering. I was self-taught on guitar and hand percussion, as drumkit was impossible at home, and doubly-so at my apartment in Kensington Market in Toronto.

I tuned my classical guitar D-A-D-G-B-E, and used the three low strings as drones, and played melody on the top three strings. I was not into harmony…chords just didn't click with me. I wanted melody against a drone. My neighbour Karen Nordquist heard me playing guitar, and suggested I might check out some Indian classical music, and sent me to Sam The Record Man with instructions to pick up a Ravi Shankar tape. I'd never heard of Ravi Shankar.

Well, I got there, found the world music section, the Indian music section and the Ravi Shankar section, which was row upon row of cassettes! I thought to myself 'holy! this dude has like 50 albums out!!'. Which one to get? I decided on a Deutsch Grammaphone compilation cassette that had traditional pieces on one side, and Indian-Japanese fusion on the other. (I still have the tape!)

I got it home, and listened to it:

Track 1: Raga Mohan Kauns [Homage to Mahatma Gandhi]

Cool! Very pretty!

Track 2: Raga Gara

Also cool! No idea what's going on! but it's cool!

Track 3: Tala Farodast (Alla Rakha tabla solo)

Cool. VERY cool. (recititation starts at around the 4 minute mark). OMG WHAT IS THIS INSTRUMENT!! WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE!!!!

{This is where I rip the cassette out of my tapedeck, run next door to Karen's place, slap it in her tape deck, hit play and say 'Karen…what is this instrument?!? I LOVE IT!!!'.}

and Karen said "Oh…that's tabla! My vocal teacher Art Levine studies tabla with a guy named Ritesh Das…I'll get you his number tomorrow"

aaaand, here we are, what…24 or so years later?

Ravi Shankar was always very supportive of tabla…his albums regularly featured dedicated tabla solos, so, even though he was a sitarist, he is very much responsible for my finding tabla.

I downloaded that album last night, and listened to it until 3am.

RIP Maestro, and thank you.

Here's the iTunes link to the tabla solo if anyone is interested:

and here's an album that has all the tracks from that tape, and more:


  1. Great post! I feel the same way about Ravi having a major influence on my interest and beginnings into the world of Indian music and tabla. My first album was a cassette tape of "The Genius of Ravi Shankar" The first track on side two "Tabla Solo in Jhaptal" totally blew my mind! Still my favorite Ravi album to date for sentimental reasons. So fortunate that I got to see him in concert with Anoushka back in 2004 in Dallas. Cheers, dig your site as always! - Dustin

    1. Ha! the infectious Ravi Shankar cassette tape tabla solo strikes again! Awesome.

      Sorry for the late reply...Blogger is terrible at letting me know about comments :P