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Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, September 23, 2005, Music

Ravi & Anoushka Shankar

Paramount Theatre, Sept. 20

"Frankly, I don't have much interest in music," admitted a bemused Dalai Lama to more than 10,000 Austinites at the Frank Erwin Center only hours earlier. "Irritated by the noise," via a disarming anecdote about being woken by a disco in Berlin, also responded to the perfect local query for his Holiness. Of course there's intrinsic value in any "Message of Love," he acknowledged, and while the Hendrix reference was naturally lost on the rock star divinity, his audience with Anoushka Shankar in 2003 belies his affected crankiness at human entreatment. Shankar preceded another mystic at a palace fit for just such a dignitary, the Paramount's Ken Stein opening the evening by comparing the occasion to the theatre's historical greatest hits, which include Harry Houdini and Orson Welles. Another daughter of planet Earth's patron saint of the sitar wasn't precisely magic in her 40-minute opening set, leading 10 musicians through layers of Indian Raga Sangreet, but Anoushka Shankar didn't warrant a disappearing act either. Tabla, flute, violin, and a chorus of entreaties both sung and sounded out cushioned the droning strings of a 2,000-year-old classical music bearing little resemblance to Western classical music. Here, rhythm and not movements moves listeners to trance. That Shankar only contributed a short aside to the assemblage's round robin soloing was a troubling sign put to rest in the second set. Opening with a 30-minute raga every bit as galvanizing as his Monterrey Pop ascendance almost 40 years ago, Ravi Shankar proved that while the fire no longer scorches à la Hendrix, walking across his still burning coals remains nothing less than an ecstatic ritual. The 85-year-old who changed music forever still bends strings that would snap in lesser hands. With a sorrowful look of concentration, the elder Shankar led his quartet through dialogues of exotic splendor, yet it was his daughter Anoushka with whom he sought the heart to heart. Whenever she soloed, Papa watched carefully, and when she finally broke free of her studied middle ground in the last half of the 90-minute hypnotism, he pointed and waved in delight. After that, their sitars danced together like father and daughter at a wedding. Music such as this could only irritate oysters.

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