Saturday, Nov. 20; Outpost Performance Space (all ages, 8 p.m.): If your idea of sitar music is George Harrison plinking away at the instrument while seated in the Lotus position during the recording of Revolver, you need a new idea. Cool and exotic as it may have sounded to those who were alive and listening intently to popular music back in 1966, the sitar—a lute-like instrument with seven playing strings and up to 13 that resonate sympathetically—dates back at least 700 years, and the music created on it within East Indian culture dates to ancient times and has a richness and history that neither Harrison nor Sir George Martin could ever hope to recreate.
And while Ravi Shankar will perhaps forever be remembered as the finest exponent of the instrument through his various associations with Western musicians and their music industry, he should also be remembered as the teacher of a divine language, one that he has passed on to very few fluent practitioners. Among those is former child prodigy and current sitar master Kartik Seshadri, considered the foremost disciple of Shankar.
Seshadri's technical ability on the sitar is world renowned, as he has toured nearly nonstop for more than a decade. But it's his instinctive understanding of the ancient raga sangreet (Indian classical music) that is most extraordinary. As much as 90 percent of Indian classical music can be improvised using one of the 72 parent scales on which all such music is based. The melodies that separate one piece from all others is purely spiritual and based on one of nine emotions recognized by composers and connected to particular times of day or the seasons of the year. It's music that speaks from a different place to a different place. It's truly music that saturates the soul to a degree that most Western music cannot.