Music review: Anoushka Shankar: Land of Gold

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Edinburgh International Festival: Performed on a stage occupied in the past by her renowned father Ravi, sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar’s Land of Gold is an often outraged response to the refugee crisis, in the very contemporary company of percussionist, hang player and co-composer Manu Delago, Tom Farmer on double bass and keyboard, and Sanjeev Shankar, a master of the shehnai reed pipe.

Usher Hall


In contrast to the meditative flow of traditional ragas, Land of Gold involved heavy use of electronics and amplified beats, Delago switching between booming drums and the more delicate, metallic chiming of the hang. The volume at times threatened to obscure Shankar’s sitar, although elsewhere its querulous voice sang out clearly and delivered darting, staccato runs, the shrill tones of the shehnai answering back.

The title piece opened wistfully, sitar singing over bowed bass, before working towards another thunderous climax, to which their tender encore, Say Your Prayers, was a pensive contrast.

Opening, Faiz Ali Faiz and his ensemble gave powerful voice to qawwali, the Sufi devotional song tradition, with impassioned call and response singing and ecstatic outbursts. As Shankar pointed out, on this other 70th anniversary, that of Partition, it was heartening to have a bill shared by Indian and Pakistani artists.