In September 2008, we went to Paris for a mini-break. Our reasons for going were twofold: one, we wanted to go hear Ravi Shankar play his last European concert with his daughter, Anoushka. Two, we hadn’t had a vacation together since October last year — I mean, alone together, no one else. Item one, check. Item two, check check.
Well, we had a fab time! Yay Thalys, it gets you there in a very pleasant 4 hours. So, down on Saturday morning, back on Wednesday afternoon. We had amazing luck and stayed in the beautiful empty apartment of some friends of my parents. So every morning we had coffee in our place then went for croissants at the boulangerie next door. On Saturday we went to the Musee de la VIe Romantique, the former residence of George Sand, then walked along the Canal St. Martin before meeting up with some composer friends of The Redhead. Sunday we spent most of the day at the Marche aux Puces, hunting down vintage buttons and old Tin-Tin comics before meeting the friends again and having dinner with our absentee hosts. Monday and Tuesday we took long walking tours of the Right Bank and of the Marais, after seeing the Orangerie and Notre Dame.
But of course the real highlight was Ravi Shankar. He’s definitely getting up in years; he toddled on the stage and could no longer sit cross-legged, but he can still burn up his axe. There were a few moments of doubt when he seemed to be going in a different direction than his daughter, but they resolved themselves with the help of the stunning tabla player. He gave a “music lesson” on the second night, a sort of lecture-demonstration which worked well in some ways and less so in others; I sensed some rumblings of dismay in the audience when he spoke in faint, accented English for 45 minutes about his approach to playing before diving into musical examples. But then, boy howdy! The percussionists showed off their ta-ka-de-mi and he sang melodic bits to his daughter, expecting her to imitate him exactly (which she almost always did). At the end of the evening, he sang a whole song, phrase by phrase, to the musicians to imitate and by the end, they had learned it in unison. Most impressive for such a score-bound musician such as myself.