- Created on Thursday, 13 December 2012 10:15
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Ravi Shankar, the maestro of Sitar died yesterday at the age of 92. He was the world’s most famous sitar player, who popularised classical Indian music abroad largely through his work with the British Pop whiz George Harrison .
Ravi Shankar taught Harrison to play the sitar and collaborated with him on several projects, including the groundbreaking charity Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. The Beatles called him ‘The Godfather of World Music’.
At the height of his fame in the 1960 he was described as ‘the most famous Indian musician on the planet’ and his influence on pop music continues through his daughter, American singer Norah Jones.
The world renown violinist Yehudi Menuhin, compared his genius and humanity to Mozart.
Ravi Shankar was born into a high-caste Bengali family in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi in Northern India on April 7, 1920. He began his career at a young age, touring Europe with his brother Uday’s dance troupe and returned to India in the late 1930s to study the sitar under the renowned musician Allaudin Khan.
Shankar first married Khan’s daughter, Annapurna Devi, in 1941 and they had a son, Shubendhra. The couple later separated and Shubendhra, who also played the sitar, died in 1992.
Shankar’s affair with a New York concert producer Sue Jones led to the birth in 1979 of Norah Jones, who has won nine Grammys with her blend of pop and jazz music.
Ravi Shankar had a third child, Anoushka Shankar, with his second wife Sukanya Rajan. Anoushka became an accomplished sitar player and toured with her father.
Shankar started to attract the attention of musicians outside India after being introduced to violinist Menuhin in the early 1950s, leading to tours of Europe and the United States, as well as his first long-play album, ‘Three Ragas’.
Among the major names in contemporary music influenced by him were The Byrds, whose 1965 track ‘Eight Miles High’ bears the hallmark of Shankar’s mesmeric sitar playing. In the same year, Harrison, used a sitar he had bought on a whim on the song ‘Norwegian Wood’.
The first of his three Grammy awards came in 1967 for his collaborative album with Menuhin, ‘West Meets East’. The second in 1972 was for his Concert for Bangladesh album while the third in 2001 was for his ‘Full Circle’ concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1982 for his work on the film ‘Gandhi’, and was a recipient of both India and France’s highest civilian honours and was awarded an honourary knighthood in Britain as well as a string of honourary degrees. (niz)