L. SHANKAR – Christmas From India

Cleopatra 2021

Christmas From India

Elder statement of fusion tries to vibe with joy to the world yet misses the glistening of snow.

There are many ways to warm the Yule season, and spicing it up with quality exotica is as good a method as any, especially if savory flavors hail from tropical latitudes, so the arrival of this artist’s festive album should come as no surprise. Unfortunately, “Christmas From India” can’t be considered L. Shankar’s most daring experiment, as shadows of his erstwhile work with the likes of McLaughlin and Zappa don’t fall across the winter carols and hymns. Not that the veteran felt restrained when approaching familiar melodies – the problem is, he attempted to preserve the holiday’s pop spirit instead of exploring its spirituality from progressive perspective.

This is why no matter how much sitar drone and tabla rumble have been put on the likes of “Deck The Halls” and “Jingle Bells” – one of a few numbers on offer featuring Lakshminarayana’s soft voice – they fail to produce mesmeric aroma of raga, other than in brief improv fragments. More so, synthesizers and dance groove dominant in “Last Christmas” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” negate the appeal of Shankar’s violin – unlike “The First Noel” which, as other traditional tunes, embrace Āryāvarta motifs rather naturally. Still, though “Silent Night” and “Joy To The World” will go off on a tangent to display a wider panorama of psychedelic colors, a new arrangement of “O Holy Night” has a solemn depth to it too – with just a whiff of Hindustan influences. However, the veteran’s originals “Christmas Time” and “Saviour” do exude the alluring aroma old aficionados would expect from L. who can quite organically switch from a sweet instrumental to excursion into the unknown.

The result of it all feels like a missed opportunity: not a mixed bag in stylistic terms, this otherwise solid work may become one of many seasonal albums that languor on the shelf.


November 23, 2021

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