Our weekends are held distinctly special from the rest of the week. If we’re not careful, our weekends can degenerate into routines, too. Saturday, chores, shopping, sports on teevee, then maybe nightclubbing or hanging out. Sunday, sleeping in, maybe spiritual practice, eating, maybe more teevee sports and preparation for the week.
I don’t have a strong routine on weekends anymore, but Saturday and Sunday have a loose pattern. Sometimes I become more aware of the framework when I adjust one element. In this case, it is the audio backdrop. Music enters into the weekends one way or another. Maybe the mundane sounds of piped in radio music on the speakers in stores. Maybe a mainstream rock band coming through earbuds from an iPod. Possibly country music from a radio in the kitchen.
Somehow, I’d gotten into the habit of listening to podcasts of lectures or downloaded music. Frequently my listening was from an iPod or MP3 player plugged into my home stereo amplifier. Well, I haven’t updated the music library on any of my devices for awhile and I wasn’t in the mood for a podcast anyway. I raided my compact disc archives and came up with a couple of forgotten treasures.
A lonely friend invited himself to the house on Saturday, so I decided to prepare a humble supper so we could have some quality time together. It occurred to me that some mellow instrumental music should be in the background. I checked my CD rack and found a real gem that hadn’t been played for a couple of years.
“Global House” by the Norwegian artist Øystein Sevåg almost jumped out at me. I think “Global House” is his best album, by far. It was released in 1995 by Windham Hill. I like the subtle variety of styles and the masterful performance of Sevåg and his fellow musicians. If you’re craving some savvy mid 90s new age compositions, you’ll find a few on this disc.
What stands out, though, are some moody, pensive cuts that will shift your mind into a contemplative mode if you’re alone, or intimacy if you’re with someone special. “Birds Flying” and “Thundernight” feature some sexy saxophone playing by Bendik Hofseth. The two cuts are a bit more upbeat and sexy. There are a couple of exotic numbers featuring the didgeridoo stylings of Zotora Nygård. The best one is “Back In The Jungle”. “Global House” did enhance our supper and eventually lead to us exploring some other world music CDs before we parted company for the night.
I slept in an extra half an hour on Sunday getting up at 4:30 to a very quiet, hazy, overcast sky threatening us with a chance of precipitation. I decided to continue the exploration of the archives. The perfect CD came into view.
“Full Circle–Carnegie Hall 2000” by Ravi Shankar. This is a 2001 release by Angel Records. I opened the shades to the early morning darkness and trayed in the CD. I thought back to my long -term love affair with Indian Ragas. Most of my relationship with classical Indian music has been with Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Many boomers, like myself, were introduced, in 1967, to Sri Shankar when they first heard Side 2, Track One of The Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. “Within You Without You” is a haunting collaboration of Shankar and George Harrison. The Beatles, and specifically Harrison studied Sitar and classical Indian music structure under the spiritual and technical guidance of maestro Shankar. “Sgt. Peppers…” and “Within You Without You” inspired my teenaged mind to search beyond the mundane in music and in life.
Ravi Shankar and Ragas presented themselves in a big way a few years ago when my friend Dan treated me to a Shankar concert appearance at the Lied Center at the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln. Our seats were ideal. I can’t remember the row number, but I do recall that we sat in seats J and K. Of course, I was in J. It turned out that I was at eye level with Sri Shankar maybe 100 feet away. His performance was musical and spiritual perfection.
I purchased the album “Full Circle…” in the lobby, after the concert, so the “vibe” is locked into my memory banks. Back in the living room with the dark early morning as a backdrop, I closed my eyes and relived some of the show at the Lied Center. As you’d expect of a Carnegie Hall concert, the album performance and recording is impeccable.
The first track has Ravi Shankar reminiscing about his first appearance at the venue in 1938. He performed his Sitar music and also danced at that time in his brother Uday’s Hindu Dance Company. Cut five, “Raga Mishra Gara”, is a half-hour aural/spiritual journey to Bengal State India. I felt transported into a timeless, yet ancient state of bliss, joy and serenity. A person could use this track in meditation, but I never have yet done so.
Unlike so many live albums, “Full Circle–Carnegie Hall 2000” is technically clean and well engineered. The purity of the music is not polluted with any production faults.
The weekend continued on a very pleasant note.
The Blue Jay of Happiness understands that music is a powerful tool that commands respect and wise use.