Ravi Shankar died a few days ago. A great loss. They say he was a Pandit. Maybe it is too much, a pandit is some polymath equivalent in Hindu tradition. A pandit is “a scholar and a teacher, particularly one skilled in the Sanskrit language, who has mastered the four Vedic scriptures, Hindu rituals, Hindu law, religion, music, and philosophy under a Guru in a vedic school” (Wikipedia). Now Mr. Shankar played the sitar. He played it from an early age, until he played it with great internationally recognized musicians. He has been introduced to violinist Yehudi Menuhin, during Menuhin’s first visit to India in 1952. Shankar went to USSR as a part of a cultural delegation in 1954 and Menuhin invited Shankar in 1955 to perform in New York City for a demonstration of Indian classical music, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. Nice, in full Cold War. In late 1970, the London Symphony Orchestra invited Shankar to compose a concerto with sitar. Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra was performed with André Previn as conductor and Shankar playing the sitar.
He was loved and highly appreciated by the people and the establishment. Beatles’ George Harrison was for Shankar like a son. I read these days that he had an estranged relation with his daughter in America, Norah Jones. Same sources said that Norah used to sing in bars in Bodrum, Turkey, for travel money between her hippie pilgrimage trips to Goa or Pune. I don’t believe a word.
He started as a dancer. He gave up dance and studied sitar under Ustad Allauddin Khan. He married Allauddin Khan’s daughter Annapurna Devi in 1941 and fulfilled his father in law’s expectations, with a son, Shubhendra (who unfortunately died in USA in 1992). He separated from Annapurna Devi and started a relationship with a dancer, Kamala Shastri. Has an affair with the concert producer Sue Jones, which led to the birth of Norah Jones in 1979. In 1981 he separated from Kamala Shastri and lived in the open with Jones until 1986. In 1989 married Sukanya Rajan and had another daughter, Anoushka, who kept his surname.
He had a heart-valve replacement surgery on December 6. He died on December 11, 2012 at a hospital near his home in California. India’s Prime Minister called him a “global ambassador” and a “national treasure”.
Ravi Shankar & Anoushka Shankar Live: Raag Khamaj (1997)
I found a video with George Harrison first, taking a sitar lesson, but I’ve changed my mind, this one with daughter Anushka is much more expressive. Please, enjoy!
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