Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, August 27, 2004


I was reading the other night Leonard Bernstein’s 1975 book of lectures, “The Unanswered Question,” which my friend Jay lent me. One of the first musicians Bernstein mentions is the classical Indian dance troupe leader he styles Uday Shan-kar. Uday Shan-kar was one of the first classical Indian performers to tour Europe. He did it in the 1930s. His European secretary was a man named Rene Daumal, who happened to be highly regarded poet and experimental novelist; he wrote “Mount Analogue,” which a very happening experimental Seattle band (who are also real nice guys) adopted for their name. Daumal wrote a still-highly regarded book on Indian aesthetics, “Rasa,” which takes its title from an Indian word for “savor” or “essence.” This Shan-kar fellow made some important connections, and 40 years after his tour, Leonard Bernstein was still talking about the music he heard.

Dancing in his troupe in this mid-’30s European tour was his teen-age younger brother who later gave up dancing and took up the sitar and became, among other things, George Harrison’s friend, Philip Glass’s teacher and collaborator, and Norah Jones’s father. The world of ‘30s French poetry seems forever away, but Uday’s brother Ravi is still very much alive.

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