For those who are more familiar with the "classic" Ravi Shankar style (i.e. long extended sitar solo with tablas inbetween solos, or the occasional flute chiming in) will be surprised when listening to Ravi Shankar's Tana Mana. This disc doesn't have the long Ragas that you might be used to. It doesn't feature the sitar as much as his other works. But that doesn't mean that this isn't a great album. Instead, Shankar expands to new levels of excellence. The songs on this album are more accessable to larger audiences than his other works. Some of the tunes are accually pretty catchy. But it doesn't even come close to anything remotly 'pop'. The songs are limited usually to 4 minutes or less, and the entire disc only manages to squeeze 40 minutes of this musical bliss into our ears. But most will find that the shorter songs allow the listener to appreciate them even more - and they don't ever have enough time to get repetitive.
Like I said before, the sitar isn't featured as much on this album as it is on others. Instead, there is a very good balance of instruments, ranging from flutes, tablas, marimbas, sarods, basses, and even synths. It has a very up to date sound, due to the synths. But the sitar isn't just shoved into the background - it is still fairly prominent - and what we do hear of it makes us appreciate it even more. The other instruments do a fabulous job at accenting the sitar. The only songs coming close the the more traditional Shankar sound are Reunion and Friar Park.
A couple of the songs on this album have vocals, like Tana Mana, Seven and 10, and West Eats Meat. Many of the songs have a very dark and forboding mood to them, which is mainly because of the added bass and synths - and deep tablas. But then some songs have a very happy and upbeat mood, like Village Dance and Chase. But the styles don't interfear with each other. Everything just blends perfectly.
I think that the song "Chase" is one of my favorite Shankar songs ever. It is very emotional. It is amazing how much emotion can be put into an instrumental song.
Every song on this album has some special quality to it that makes it stand out and strike a chord with the listener. West Eats Meat is a very different song, featuring an upright bass, playing a very cool bass line, while the sitar chimes in and some vocals said from time to time with an added reverb effect. This song reminds me of some very cool and dark techno music.
If you are a fan of Ravi's earlier or more traditional work, then you might not like this one at first, but hopefullly you will find that this album is one of the most amazing albums that he has ever put together. Everything on this album is fresh and never starts to sound the same. And none of the feeling or emotion from the traditional songs was lost - in fact, these tracks hit harder to me than his others.
This album could be labeled as "Experimental Indian", but if this was an experiment, it went very very well! If you are a fan of Indian music, or if you are a Westener looking to get introduced to Indie music, I really can't reccomend this album enough. I only wish that Ravi Shankar had done more work like this.