Monday, November 10, 2008

George Harrison in Kashmir

George Harrison
We were talking - about the space between us all

And the people - who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion

Never glimpse the truth - then it's far too late - when they pass away


Lennon had been making comments on Christ and Christianity; and George was taking a keen interest in all things India. These were tough times for The Beetles: there were even talks of retirement.

In July 1966, The Fab Four arrived at Delhi on what was to be the band’s first visit to India; it was a brief visit, and Harrison famously bought a Sitar from a music store in Connaught Circus, Delhi (now better known as Connaught Place or just CP, and the shop was Rikhi Ram and Sons.).

In September, seeking Sitar lessons from maestro Ravi Shankar, George Harrison returned to India on a six-week trip along with his wife Pattie Harrison (who later married Eric Clapton). He stayed at Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay (now Mumbai) and commenced taking lessons from Ravi Shankar; but soon realized that he was too famous even in India: when mobs of Indian Beatles fan started descending to the Hotel, he decided it was time to move to a place that offered anonymity and peace. Kashmir with its natural beauty and general inaccessibility proved to be the perfect place.



Once in Kashmir, he moved into the retreat of the famous Kashmiri houseboats (invented at the start of the century for the luxury of European tourists) that still line the Dal Lake. In the serene background of still waters of Dal, for the next few weeks he started learning Sitar from Pandit Ravi Shankar, and this was the only extended period of training that Harrison received from Ravi Shankar. He practiced Hatha Yoga (to get over the discomfort of having to sit on the floor with the Sitar), he started reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga. This was the start of his life long affair with Hinduism; and the immediate impact of the visit was for the world to see in the next Beetles’ album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was for this album that George Harrison created the beautiful song Within You Without You.



And the time will come when you see we're all one,

and life flows on within you and without you.


Although the song did start the fashion of the ‘Indian sound’, generated western pop interest in ‘Indian thought’ and sent a million back backers on pilgrimage to Kashmir*; but the fact remains that the song, unlike its many successors, in many ways sounded like an outcome of genuine devotion to Indian music and thought.



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*

George Harrison stayed with Clermont Houseboats, a famous tourist establishment (their office right next to Sheikh Abdullah's grave)in Kashmir that over the years has played host to eminent guests like actress Joan Fontain, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, actor Michael Palin, former U.S. Vice President Nelson A. Rockerfeller and many more.

People still go to the place and look for the particular houseboat in which George Harrison stayed. Last year, Peter Foster, former South Asia Correspondent of Daily Telegraph, wrote about his trip to Kashmir and finding the George Harrison houseboat, now decrepit and sinking .



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Hippie’yo kay lambay lambay baal



It’s a singsong line that I, while growing, had to hear every time I indolently would refuse a visit the barber, naeevid.



Hippies have long,

really long hair.



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Junoon in Kashmir:

Kashmir Valley on 25th May, 2008

According to the official Junoon website: the concert, to be organized by the non-governmental organization SAF (South Asia Foundation), will be held on the banks of the Dal Lake.



Needless to say, this going to be quite an event; that is, if everything goes well.

A Respite.



From George Harrison to Junoon, a long vacuous journey.



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You may also like to read about Kashmiri Folk music



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The information about George Harrison’s trip to Kashmir is from the book:

The Dawn of Indian Music in the West

By Peter Lavezzoli




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Cross posted at At The Edge

4 comments:

  1. I never knew this--that Harrison went to Kashmir as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Even I was surprised when I first read about it. We don't get to read things like these about Kashmir anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Also, Jimmy Page went to Kashmir in the late 60s, not sure if Robert Plant accompanied him. A couple of 20-minute tracks (guitar only, no vocals) surfaced on bootlegs in 1989 when Jimmy's London house was burglarized – White Mountain (never released) and Black Mountain Side (released on Led Zeppelin's first album in 1969, with Viram Jasani on tabla).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Didn't know that. Thanks! I was contented knowing that Kashmir had nothing to do with Kashmir...it's just something that occurred to them while travelling in Morocco and a result of their experimentations with the easter sound. The two songs you mention were part of the same experiments.

    ReplyDelete

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