For the second time in a week we’ve lost a giant of music. Today, in a truly international sense, we mark the passing of Ravi Shankar. He was 92 years old.
Pandit Shankar reached across cultures with the fiery intensity of his sitar and his open and gracious demeanor bringing the music and philosophy of India to the western world in an engaging and inclusive manner. He will be missed by two cultures.
Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury was born in Varanasi, a city along India’s Ganges river. In his youth he traveled with his brother Uday’s troupe as a dancer until settling in to study the sitar with Allauddin Khan, the court musician of Brijnath Singh Maharaja of Maihar, alongside Khan’s children Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi (whom he was married to for many years) who both became highly respected musicians themselves.
Pandit Shankar hit the international scene in the mid 1950’s thanks to violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Mr Menuhin heard Mr Shankar play during a visit to India and asked him to come to New York to introduce American audiences to classical Indian music. Mr Shankar declined the offer and instead suggested his friend Ali Akbar Khan go in his place. Mr Khan’s performances were so well received that it convinced Maestro Shankar to begin tours of Europe and America.
This is a 1963 recording of Raga Mishra Piloo by Ravi Shankar and Tabla virtuoso Chatur Lal:
Over the decades Pandit Shankar has taught and played with some of the most talented musicians on the planet, including blues man John Coltrane, composer Philip Glass, and André Previn, but folks are most familiar with his long time association with George Harrison of The Beatles with whom he teamed up with in 1971 to organize the Concert for Bangladesh.
His music has shown up in movies and has influenced western music from rock to jazz to classical to blues. His daughter Anoushka, having learned at his knee, is a sitar virtuosa herself, and in addition to carrying traditional Indian music to the next generation, she also mixes and molds it with current music styles to excellent effect. (i have most of her albums. great stuff)
This performance of Your Eyes by Anoushka Shankar at the Concert for George made me a fan:
He will be missed, but he won’t be forgotten. अच्छा यात्रा, पंडित शंकर