Ravi Shankar, the musician responsible for introducing traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences, as well as popularizing the sitar, has died at the age of 92.
Shankar was famous in India before his forays into East-meets-West collaborations began. From 1949 until 1956, he was the music director for All India Radio in New Delhi and worked as a composer for film.
But Shankar’s career in the West exploded when he and George Harrison became friends. (Harrison was to later call Shankar "the godfather of world music.") The two met in London in 1966, and shortly after Harrison went to India for six weeks to study with Shankar.
Here, Shankar gives Harrison a sitar lesson.
Western awareness of Shankar predated his friendship with Harrison, though. In the early 1950s he met violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who invited Shankar to America shortly after that. Shankar was unable to accept the invitation. Menuhin and Shankar finally did manage to collaborate in 1967, and their landmark album West Meets East won a Grammy Award in 1968.
Interestingly, the Beatles also won a Grammy Award in 1968 for their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring the Shankar-inspired song, “Within You Without You.”
Shankar and Menuhin released three albums in the West Meets East sessions, working together again in 1968 and later in 1976. “Twilight Mood” is from the final recording of the series.
Shankar's collaborations with prominent Western musicians led to a growing public interest in Indian music, in the sitar and particularly in Shankar himself. Dick Cavett called Shankar "our guru to American audiences" when Shankar performed on The Dick Cavett Show.
Shankar was also a significant influence on jazz sax player John Coltrane, who named his son, sax player Ravi Coltrane, after the sitarist. And Shankar made a lasting impression on the contemporary composer Philip Glass. Glass recalled their first meeting, in 1965 in Paris, as powerful and as important for his musical development as it was for Harrison's. In 1990, Shankar worked with Glass on a recording called Passages.
Shankar had three children. His first son, Shubhendra Shankar, was born in 1942 and died in 1992. Both his daughters are famous in their own right: Norah Jones as a pop artist, and Anoushka Shankar as a sitarist, who studied with her father as a child and later toured with him.
For more about Ravi Shankar's life, read the CBC.ca news obituary.
on Dec 12, 2012