Heroes Of Reggae In Dub

One of the revelations in [B]Ravi Shankar[/B]'s recent autobiography was that the '60s affair between Western and Eastern cultures wasn't exactly a mutual love-in....

One of the revelations in Ravi Shankar‘s recent autobiography was that the ’60s affair between Western and Eastern cultures wasn’t exactly a mutual love-in. Shankar revealed that he was disgusted by the way The Beatles appropriated the veneer of Indian mysticism and used it as a trippy gimmick without any thought for the spiritual guidelines on which his music was based. One assumes, therefore, that the great man must have mightily disapproved of the black sheep of the family, his nephew, Ananda.

Sitar in tow, the young Ananda made the inverse of the hippy trek and landed in San Francisco where, according to the sleevenotes written at the time, he recorded his first album, as “excited about Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin and electronic music” as he was about the native music in which he’d been classically trained. And so it was that, nearly three decades before Cornershop cheekily reappropriated The Beatles‘Norwegian Wood’, Ananda rebelled against the strict disciplines of his upbringing and grabbed himself a piece of that Frisco yoof action.

The result, 1970’s ‘Ananda Shankar’, is one of the most anticipated rereleases in recent years. Tracks of his raga rock have frequently cropped up on bootleg compilation tapes around Camden Market and samples have slipped through unmonitored onto the dancefloor so it’s high time, with scratched original vinyl copies changing hands for hundreds, that Ananda‘s debut should get the acclaim it deserves.

Most famous are his Indipop versions of the Stones‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and The Doors‘Light My Fire’; both are pretty straightforward instrumental interpretations, Ananda‘s sitar prescribing the tune while Paul Lewinson, who co-writes most of the rest of the album, does the atmos Moog thing.

Unlike the indecipherable ramblings of his uncle – remember at the concert for Bangladesh, the hippies ecstatically applauded Ravi after five minutes’ twiddling; he was just tuning up – Ananda never wanders too far off into space. In fact, ‘Snow Flower’ and ‘Mamata (Affection)‘ are pure space kitsch easy listening (if there is such a thing). Spliffheads should cue straight to the 13-minute odyssey ‘Sagar (The Ocean)’ for the full exotic headtrip. Far out, as they used to say.