Astronomy Magazine

Global Culture, Ravi Shankar, and Robbie Krieger

Posted on the 12 December 2012 by Andyxl @e_astronomer

Last week I was at the Texas Donuts Meeting. More of that anon perhaps. San Antonio was a vibrant mix of American and Mexican culture. This I expected. After all, if it wasn’t for a few stubborn rednecks at the Alamo and San Jacinto, Texas would still be in Mexico. Shame about the oil. Anyhoo, what I didn’t expect was to find someone playing the bagpipes on the River Walk. Bizarre but actually rather good.

I got home and emptied out my coins. I had mixed up some US and UK coins, and as I sorted them, I noticed that the quarters and the ten pences were exactly the same diameter (though not the same thickness). Likewise the dime and the five pence were identical. After some Googling, it seems many other coins round the world are the same. On some forum I found the comment “is this a coincidence, or the work of the Illuminati?” Quite. Somebody help.

Then this morning the news that Ravi Shankar died. Ravi Shankar famously joined Eastern and Western cultures, but I think he should be equally famous for joining tribes inside the West. He played symphony halls with Yehudi Menuhin, and rock concerts with George Harrison. The classical fans were overawed by his perfect musicianship and the complexity of the music; the rock gang were hypnotised by the vitality and freedom of the music. Complexity and freedom at the same time – a pretty good trick. Back in the summer of 1971, as my hair and beard grew between schhol and university, I bought “Four Ragas” and I had never heard anything like it. I played it obsessively for days on end. Here is one of those ragas on YouTube :

Somebody on Beeb4 this morning mentioned “The End” by The Doors as a Shankar-influenced  piece of music. Excellent choice. Many seventies and eighties bands just kinda inserted sitar bits into their tracks; and the Menuhin stuff I found a sort of Classic-FM-ised version of Indian classical music. But Robbie Krieger absorbed the feeling and some of the techniques and re-emerged with something new. In the 1967 the musical world merged in Los Angeles. African music crossed the Atlantic in slave boats and became ragtime, jazz and blues; music from the borders of Scotland and Ireland mutated into bluegrass and country; both of these were swallowed up by the mainstream European style songwriting tradition and became rock and roll; and finally the hippies swallowed the eastern music and the acid and rock passed through the doors of perception and emerged strange and wonderful.  Enough. Ladies and Gentleman, The Doors :

The streets are fields that never die, deliver me from reasons why

We used to write that on walls.

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