An enthusiastic full house greeted sitar master, Anoushka Shankar last Sunday evening at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, where in quintet she presented pieces from her recent mini-album together with some old favourites. Shankar is no stranger to performing in Scotland, however this was her first time here with this pleasingly jazz-heavy group that was ideal for delivering music that merged Classical Indian raga with Jazz.
Much like the spacious quality of the music, the band spread right across the Festival Theatre’s large stage. Striking in a deep purple sari, from her central position on a traditional, slightly raised platform, Shankar gracefully directed proceedings, clarinettist Arun Ghosh and Carnatic percussionist Pirashanna Thevarajah on her left and drummer Sarathy Korwar and bassist Tom Farmer to her right.
Beginning at an unhurried tempo, the 90-minute single set became more boisterous with time, with insistent grooves emerging and towards the end, Shankar often playing with hard to believe speed and dexterity. Each musician had their brief solos, Ghosh’s being especially beautiful and Thevarajah’s konnakol a delight. It was a pleasure too to watch the musicians listening with such evident enjoyment to their colleagues’ contributions.
There were a great many concert highlights. Shankar’s lyrical compositions were all rather lovely, this listener’s favourite being Say your Prayers, while her rendition of her late father Pandit Ravi’s Fire Night – to which Shankar explained she used to dance – felt especially poignant.