A concert performed by Ravi Shankar that climaxed a dusk-to-dawn festival of Indian music at a New York cathedral almost 40 years ago will be released on CD for the first time next month, East Meets West Music announced July 16.
On Aug. 6, 1976, Ravi Shankar, who mentored George Harrison on the sitar and was one of his closest friends, organized a dusk ‘til dawn concert at the St. John the Divine cathedral in New York City to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his first U.S. concert appearance. The concert, which featured many acts from the Indian classical music world including Shankar’s longtime collaborator Alla Rahka, ended at dawn with an extended set from Shankar.
East Meets West Music is releasing the remastered concert as “Nine Decades, Vol. 4: A Night at St. John the Devine,” the fourth installment of its “Nine Decades” series to mark the 60th anniversary of his introduction to the West. The concert featuures Shankar on sitar, Alla Rahka on tabla, Asant Rai on bass tanpura and Shambdhu Das on bass tanpura.
“Raviji spoke to me at length about this extraordinary all-night concert at St. John the Divine,” his wife Sukanya Shankar recalls. “He remembered how when he was playing and the dawn came, suddenly there was a hush in the audience. When he opened his eyes, he saw the morning sunlight shining on his face. What a sight it must have been! Ravi (the Sanskrit word for ‘sun’) casting its rays and greeting this most handsome face of Ravi.
“Raviji’s music is, in itself, very spiritual and when he plays in a place of worship, as I have witnessed many times all around the world, it’s a magical, transcendent experience. ”
The Nine Decades series is a multi-volume project featuring rare and never-before released recordings that were chosen by Ravi Shankar from his vast archive and remastered. Other volumes include “Nine Decades, Volume 1: 1967 – 1968,” “Nine Decades Vol.2 - Reminiscence of North Vista” and “Nine Decades Vol.3 - Orchestral Experimentations.”
“If Ravi Shankar had doubts that New Yorkers would respond favorably to a lengthy concert of Indian music featuring expositions of ragas stretching far beyond the durations of conventional concert hall performances, he does not have them now,” the New York Times wrote on Aug. 8, 1976. “About 2,500 listeners crowded into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Friday evening for an all-night raga program with Mr. Shankar as the host and star performer, and most of them stayed until sunrise.”