The estate of George Harrison recently launched HariSongs, a digital label dedicated to reissuing his productions and collaborations related to his love of Indian music. The label’s first release is a reissue of Ravi Shankar‘s 1973 album for Apple Records, In Concert 1972. Originally released as a double album, this concert captures the sitar master Live at the New York Philharmonic in October 1972, accompanied by his long-term partners, Ali Akbar Khan and Alla Rakha.
In Concert 1972 is an exercise in stamina, as the 100 minute concert offers three ragas, one of which lasts nearly an hour. Shankar begins the show by dedicating the performance to his mentor and father-in-law Allauddin Khan, who had passed away a few weeks earlier. The first piece, “Raga Hem Biha,” is a night raga written by the late guru. Serene and a little bit melancholy, it drifts effortlessly in space and leads the listener to a tranquil place. “Raga Manj Khama” is an evening raga that might seem daunting at 51 minutes, but is actually quite up-tempo and lively, thanks to the addition of tabla. Despite the epic length, the piece never becomes boring; unhurried, it will lead the listener’s mind to a beautiful, exotic state. The last piece of the evening, “Raga Sindhi Bhairavi,” finds the trio breaking away from the mellowness and turning up the intensity; after the last hour and a half, they really let loose with a raga that will leave the listener absolutely breathless. It starts out fast-paced, but the pace grows so intensely frantic over the last 15 minutes that by the time the piece climaxes–and yes, that is an appropriate adjective to describe what is happening here––the audience just absolutely explodes with orgasmic applause and appreciation. It’s a hell of a way to end a night of relatively mellow and somewhat narcotic sounds.
Shankar was a true master of his craft, and In Concert 1972 is perhaps one of the finest performances of the man’s seven decade long career. It’s nice to have it finally reissued, and serves as a fantastic launching point for this new label. If you’ve ever wondered about where to start exploring Shankar’s vast discography, this is perhaps the best place to start.