George Harrison attended a private morning concert put on by one of his biggest inspirations, Ravi Shankar, at the Indian classical musician’s Hollywood home in June 1971; two months later, both would perform at the Concert for Bangladesh. Recordings from the concert – including “Hollywood Dhun,” which is streaming here – will now be available on the never-before-released Ravi Shankar double-LP, In Hollywood, 1971, which will come out on Record Store Day.
“‘Dhun’ is a composition based on semi-classical melodies or folk tunes, usually played at the end of a concert,” his widow, Sukanya Shankar, tells Rolling Stone. “One can play a medley of different ragas and talas – whatever comes to mind in a free association kind of way. ‘Dhun’ predominantly uses the sensuous and romantic Sringara rasa theme. Raviji [her name for Shankar] would play this so beautifully. He also often would portray flashes of different moods from the Navarasa (the Nine Emotions or rasas key to Indian Aesthetics) in quick succession. He was so spontaneous that I remember a concert at Chicago Symphony Hall when he suddenly started playing ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ to an ecstatic audience.”
Shankar performed the concert with tabla player ustad Alla Rakha and tanpura player Kamala Chakravarty.
“On ‘Hollywood Dhun,’ you hear Raviji play a series of Bangledeshi folk melodies with great heart and soul, disturbed as he was about the situation in Bangledesh at the time (something he mentions in his intro),” Sukanya says. “Raviji’s playing is energetic and dynamic, moving sublimely from melody to melody and Ustad Alla Rakha accompanies him on tabla with his usual vigor. I hope you enjoy this, a prime example of the Raviji’s love for the intricacies and connections that music can convey.”
In Sukanya’s liner notes for the release, she writes that the concert and conversations that surrounded it planted the seed in Harrison’s mind for the Concert for Bangladesh. That event took place on August 1st, 1971 and also featured performances by Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Bob Dylan. It later produced the Grammy-winning, three-LP set, Concert for Bangla Desh. Harrison’s song “Bangla Desh” from that time became a big hit.