East Meets West Music

Nine Decades Vol. 5: Ravi Shankar’s Ghanashyam A Broken Branch


Nine Decades Vol. 5 is a special re-mastered recording of the music-theater piece entitled, Ghanashyam: A Broken Branch, originally commissioned by he Birmingham Touring Opera Company and premiering in 1989. Created out of his deep concern over the youth culture’s preoccupation with drugs as an “easy escape from the sadhana found in disciplined hard work,” Ravi Shankar wrote this outstanding piece of music in the folk tale tradition. It is an examination of the forces that can dilute the world-changing potential of the artist. The music is lush, featuring Shankar’s usual proclivity to combine Eastern and Western orchestral instrumentations to great effect. Featuring dance music in the North Indian Kathak style, as well as the South Indian Bharatanatyam and Kathakali styles, Ghanashyam is a dynamic work of unearthly beauty and one that is very much influenced by Shankar’s eight years of dancing in his brother Uday Shankar’s troupe. Originally released on CD in the early 1990s at a truncated 60 minutes, East Meets West has re-mastered the original reels and restored a full twenty more minutes to the music, making this recording a more faithful to the audio that accompanied the original theater production.

  • Ghanashyam Intro (excerpt)

  • Ghanashyam Drugs, Hallucinations, The Divine (excerpt)

  • Ghanashyam Fun Possessed (excerpt)

  • Ghanashyam Another Day, Life Goes On (excerpt)



Ghanashyam-Introduction and Overture
Temple Scene and Dance Practice
Holi Color Festival Song
Festival Preparations
Harahara Shankara Drug Pushers (Temptation)
Monsoon and Rain
Sadness and Intoxication
Drugs, Hallucinations, The Divine
Demons and Struggle
Love Song (Ashtapati of Jayadeva)
Dishonesty, Chase, Death
Shadows and Loss
Pining Dream Illusion
Fun – Possessed
Exorcism, Death, Spirit Escape
Shadows and Loss Reprise
Another Day, Life Goes On


Executive Producers: Shyama Priya & Cat Celebrezze
Music Producer: Shyama Priya
Re-mastering and Mix Engineer: Barry Phillips Design: Silver Egg Studios

All music composed by Ravi Shankar All compositions published by Anourag Music via St. Rose Music Publishing (ASCAP)

Musicians: Vocals, Conducting: Ashit Desai • Vocals: Hema Desai, Haimanti Sukla • Synthesizer: Raju, Prashanta Bagchi • Mridangam: D. Kannan • Violin: Harminder Soni • Tabla: Fateh Singh Gangani • Tabla & Dolak: Vikram Patil • Sarangi: Ramesh Misra • Sarod: Parthosarthy Chaudhury • Sitar: Shubhendra Rao • Flute: Kailash Sharma, Aloke Nath Dey • Guitar: Vishwa Mohan Bhatt • Shenai: Daya Shankar • Padant (Katthok); Maulik Shah, Ishira Shah • Padant (Bharatnatyam); V.P. Dhananjayan •


Ghanashyam – A Broken Branch

The story is set in India at the turn of this century.

Act One
The story is set in a small village. In the village live two couples who are neighbors, friends and teachers of dance. Kanta and Raman teach Bharatanatyam and Kathakali; Young Ghanashyam and Lalita teach Kathak. [Track 1]

Their students are put through their paces, giving basic footwork practice. Then the teachers demonstrate their own skills, first individually, then combining their different talents and skills. [Track 2]

It is the spring Festival Holi. [Track 3] The place is decorated, and the Zamindar is invited to preside over the function. The villagers dance and sing in celebration. [Track 4]

Bhang is distributed at the feast. Whereas Raman refuses, Ghanashyam tries the drink, and clearly enjoys it, taking a little more than he should. Sadhus arrive to tempt Ghanashyam with ganja promising religious visions. Ghanashayam is lured. [Track 5]

As the seasons pass, Ghanashyam becomes more and more dependent on ganja. [Track 6]

When he has spent all his money, he takes his wife’s jewels to pay for drugs. As time passes, he loses his dignity and morality. His degradation is complete when he spies on Kanta as she bathes. Lalita sees this and is distraught. [Track 7]

Ghanashyam’s drug-induced visions change from the divine to erotic and finally to a nightmare world, which leaves him confused and terrified.

Act Two
Spring [Track 8]

Raman and Kanta rehearse Jayadeva’s epic song-poem ‘Priye charushile’, an expressive dance depicting Krishna’s way of winning over Radha. [Track 11]

Ghanashyam steals a valuable jewel, belonging to the Zamindar to pay for drugs. He is pursued by villagers, and in the chase, he suffers a heart failure, and dies. [Track 12]

Lalita mourns his death [Track 13], imagines the spirit of Ghanashyam returning to her, as he was at the height of his powers. [Track 14]

As the village women go about their daily chores, they notice Kanta beginning to act strangely. It becomes clear that she is possessed by the spirit of Ghanashyam. [Track 15]

An Ojha is sent for to exorcise the spirit, but it is too strong, and cannot be freed. The Ojha tel.ls the villagers that if Kanta is to be saved, the spirit must be transferred to another person, who would then die.

Lalita offers herself as the sacrifice – she wants to join her husband. The Ojha performs the ceremony. The spirit moves to Lalita’s body, and Kanta recovers. As the spirit enters Lalita, she becomes wild and possessed. [Track 16]

In a great struggle with the Ojha, the spirit leaves, the branch breaks, and Lalita dies. [Track 17]

Life in the village goes on, and the dance lessons continue. [Track 18]

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