Ananda Shankar – “Raghupati”

We made it two weeks into 2021, give thanks. I truly mean that. Y’all already know how difficult, stressful, last year and the first few days of this year has been, and how much it’s taken from us all, so I’m not going to rehash that. Instead, I’m gonna leave you with this one, a moment of peace from Ananda Shankar.

In the late ’60s Bengali musician Shankar helped to popularize the West’s fascination with Indian music and culture. The nephew of the legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar, Ananda came stateside to join his uncle in Los Angeles working to introduce his style of Indian classical music to America. He played with several artists, most notably Jimi Hendrix, who proposed recording a collaborative album. Shankar declined, feeling that it would be a Jimi record, and wanted to create an album on his own terms which would blend eastern and western styles. Not long after, he would do just that, releasing his groundbreaking self-titled debut in 1970.

Ananda Shankar is a soothing blend of sitars, tablas, chants, and contemplation, an easygoing and transformative listen. It’s a relaxing mix, and Shankar also takes moments to cover some western hits too, putting his own spin on The Doors’ “Light My Fire” and The Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash.”

The closer of the album is “Raghupati,” Shankar’s take on the well-known Hindu devotional. Short but so utterly transcendent, Shankar employs a rollicking guitar lick, a chorus of voices, and meditative chants which glide over all, and the song builds in fervor and emotion. It’s 2 minutes of beautiful blessings of peace and love, with a energetic, psychedelic flair. It’s a wonderful moment, and a perfect cleanse for everything we’ve been going through.

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