Playbill

What can an Indian classical music virtuoso who has been playing concerts since he was seven learn from pop music? "Being precise in my presentation," says violinist Lakshminarayana, or L., Shankar. In South India, performing a raga can take up to four hours, including 20 minutes just to tune up. "Playing pop taught me how to deliver a complete piece of music in just a few minutes," says Shankar.

Even more important is a respect for technically perfect sound. Any American who has purchased CDs made in India has experienced wretched audio mangling of first-class music. Shankar says he never paid much attention to this aspect until he toured with Genesis. When the Genesis sound crew initially tried to amplify his violin, Shankar recalls, "the sound resembled a strangled cat." That led him to design the ten-string stereophonic double violin. This unique instrument, crafted by American Ken Parker, can imitate a double bass, viola, violin and cello, the entire string orchestra range. While Shankar plays one neck, he can simultaneously bow or pluck the other.

Shankar's father, musical guru V. Lakshminarayana, envisioned his son taking his place as one of the giants of Indian classical music. Shankar has done that while also expanding Indian music into the pop world through his collaborations with Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Van Morrison, among others.

For this gig, Shankar will be joined by Zakir Hussain, Indian's greatest tabla player, who will be making his fourth Houston appearance in the last 18 months. That's not surprising, since every Indian musician on tour in the States asks for Zakir to accompany him. Also appearing is ghatam (clay pot) percussionist "Vikku" Vinayakram, best known to Americans for his work with Mickey Hart, and American-born double violinist Gingger. Expect some great classical Indian music played by the only two double violinists in the world.

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Aaron Howard