Listening: Arpan

I wish I could find a shareable video of the performance of Ravi Shankar’s “Arpan” from the Concert for George DVD. All there seems to be online is the audio with a static photograph of the DVD cover. 

That is enough to convey the power of the music. But it is even more powerful to watch the musicians enjoying themselves as they share Shankar’s brilliant merger of East and West with the audience that came to Royal Albert Hall in November 2002 to celebrate the music of George Harrison, who had died exactly one year earlier. There are plenty of smiles and tears as the suite unfolds, western-style symphonic instruments trading passages and sharing moments with the sitars and the tabla and all the other instruments whose names I barely know.

The performance is conducted by his daughter Anoushka Shankar, and part of the fun is watching her put the magnificent ensemble through its paces with precise motions and a controlled enthusiasm, smiling almost all the way through.

I cannot watch or listen to “Arpan” — a Hindi word meaning an offering or surrendering — without being mesmerized. I wrote these few words while listening to the attached video, which is 23 minutes long. It took that long to write 200 words because I kept stopping just to enjoy. I hope you can spare a while to press “play” and hear the love.

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