The Telegraph
Saturday , June 10 , 2017

Forgotten Indians in Beatles album tracked

The album cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Calcutta, June 9: George Harrison's Only A Northern Song was recorded on February 13 and 14, 1967, but the Beatles did not give it a place in their seminal May 26, 1967, release Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This was a few months after Harrison had met Pandit Ravi Shankar and this was also the time when his interest in the Fab Four had waned. Nonetheless, a month later he recorded the Indian-influenced Within You Without You. But that wasn't the only Indian-inspired part.

Research led by Mike Jones from the University of Liverpool and John Ball, a World Musician in Residence at the University of Sheffield's Department of Music, have tracked down Indian musicians who had played on the track from the 1967 album - following which John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr visited Rishikesh - but their contribution had gone uncredited.

There was Anna Joshi and Amrit Gajjar (dilruba), both of whom have passed away, and Sikh temple musician Buddhadev Kansara (tamboura) and Natwar Soni (tabla), both of whom are in their 80s. The two of them were set to perform at a special Liverpool Philharmonic concert - 'Within You Without You: The Story of The Beatles and Indian Music' - on Friday night, exploring the "quiet" Beatle's fascination for Indian music and spirituality.

Jones said he and his collaborator were approached by Utkarsha Joshi, son of the late Anna Joshi. "We discussed that the four Indian musicians who played on George Harrison's track, including his father, have been regarded as 'unknown musicians' for 50 years. It's (the concert) a one-off opportunity to recognise and celebrate their contribution to what is arguably the Beatles' most famous album."

Kansara, who lives in a quiet London suburb with his wife, has told the Press Association: "My experience with the Beatles was excellent. They were nothing but nice people. Only George Harrison spoke to me as he was the one who was passionate about Indian music. He asked me if I could play the tamboura, and then we took about five to six minutes to come up with the tune." It was Kansara who took his friend Natwar Soni to the recording session.

Though Harrison was the only Beatle on Within You Without You, Lennon later said: "I think that is one of George's best songs, one of my favourites of his. I like the arrangement, the sound and the words. He is clear on that song. You can hear his mind is clear and his music is clear. It's his innate talent that comes through on that song, that brought that song together."

The Friday night concert celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's, which music journal Rolling Stone has crowned the best in its list of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time"

"This project gives fans of the Beatles as well as students in Sheffield's department of music a rare opportunity to be a part of a Beatles story that has never fully been told," said Ball.

Additional reporting by PTI

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