Shankar meshes East with West at the Flynn

Anoushka Shankar is a good example of the phrase “the rules must be learned before they can be broken.”The first time the sitaristplayed Burlington was in 2002.She was 21 years old, 13 yearsinto her musical training, andeight years into her career as a professional musician, which, from the start, had her performing sold-out concerts the world over.At that time Shankar’s concerts were presented in the timehonored format of North Indian classical music, called ragamusic. She has returned to Burlington four years later as a different musician.Shankar has ventured to write her own music, founded in the Indian tradition but fused with a myriad of other types ofmusic. Since “world” music is something that she has famously avoided playing for most of her career, Shankar’s departure is of particular interest.Though her sound may not be novel within the history of socalled “fusion music,” the transition is certainly a milestone inher own career.This past Friday, Shankar performed for a robust audience at the Flynn Center. Staying rather close to tradition, shebegan with “Voice of the Moon,” a piece that started out delicately but eventually progressed to high melodic and rhythmic velocities.The concert was composed mostly of songs from Shankar’s 2005 release, “Rise,” and featured musicians that appeared on the album.Although the instruments ranged from the traditional-the tanpura, tabla and bansuri-to the contemporary, the bandworked to effectively enhance the Indian musical forms, with the exception of pianist/computer programmer Nick Able, who,when not playing his grand piano (quite tastefully) contributed only contrived effects and trite programmed beats to the otherwise ethereal music.Anoushka’s shift from classical Indian music to fusion music might not be much of a surprise when her heredity is taken into consideration. In the late 1950’s her father, sitar master Ravi Shankar, collaborated with violinist Yehudi Menuhin(and later the Beatles) and introducedIndian music to the West.Coming from a tradition thousands of years old, Ravi Shankar was no doubt blazing trails by integrating Western and Indian classical music theories.A decade later Ravi’s nephew (Anoushka’s first cousin) Ananda Shankar followed thetrails blazed by his uncle with his distinct strain of Indian-infused jazz and funk.More recently Norah Jones, who is Ravi’s supposedly illegitimate daughter (he did play Woodstock) and half sister to Anoushka, has experienced her own share of musical success.It is certainly a daunting family tree to live up to for Anoushka Shankar, but it is a sketch of her musical pedigree.