The influence of Indian classical music and flamenco on western pop and jazz has a considerable history, as witness John Coltrane (the album Olé, and India on the classic Impressions), the Beatles and the Stones, Miles Davis (Flamenco Sketches on Kind Of Blue, the album Sketches of Spain, and much of the fusion music of the late sixties and early seventies) and, of course, John McLaughlin. That the two share a history is a common notion, as attested in Flamenco, one of the few histories of the music available in English, edited by Claus Schreiner. Anoushka Shankar now brings the two traditions together explicitly in this excellent project.
The collection begins somewhat unpromisingly, with Inside Me feeling a little soft boiled, as does the third piece, Krishna. In between, however, we have a taste of things to come, with the exuberant Bulería Con Ricardo, the sitar and Pedro Miño's piano seeming to goad each other to go faster. Track four, Si No Puedo Verla is an adaptation of a medieval Farsi poem featuring the anguished grito of Duquende, some fine guitar from producer Javier Limón, and the piece also introduces Kenji Ota on tanpura.
Dancing In Madness features some driving palmas (flamenco clapping) in amongst the sitar, and an excellent passage of call and response between sitar and percussion.
Boy Meets Girl is co-written by Pepe Habichuela, who plays characteristically virtuoso guitar. Habichuela is a member of a flamenco dynasty and has collaborated with numerous others, from flamenco greats such as Enrique Morente to jazz bassist Dave Holland (Hands). Again the interplay between the two leads, guitar and sitar, is amazing, and the feel of the piece was quite different when Shankar played it solo on BBC2's Review Show (28 October 2011).
The star of Kanya is Sandra Carrasco's soulful voice, and the vocals also steal the show on Ishq, another song based on a Farsi poem, and Casi Uno, on which Concha Buika's voice is enough to evoke tears. Sadly the piece fades out before it feels complete.
In between Kanya and Ishq is the lively title track, contrasting sharply with the final two tracks: Bharaivi is gentle and slow - even when it picks up a little after four minutes, the tempo reinforced by the tabla, it barely breaks into a fast walk; a real lesson in control - as is Lola's Lullaby, a fitting finale.
Liner notes are by Nitin Sawhney, no stranger himself to fusing the Indian tradition with the Spanish in his collaborations with Ojos De Brujo, who provides some interesting background and a short interview with Shankar and Limón. Altogether a superb package, which transcends being a mere vehicle for Shankar's virtuosity and gives a real feel for the natural affinity between the two styles of music which end up, indeed, as one.