Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar passed away in San Diego, US, On Tuesday evening. He was admitted to Scripps Memorial Hospital last Thursday after he complained of breathlessness. He was 92.
The Prime Minister has condoled the death of the musician who was the “global ambassador of India’s cultural heritage”.
Ravi Shankar , who trained under Baba Allauddin Khan of the Senia Maihar gharana, enjoyed worldwide popularity and known for his in-depth understanding of various styles and schools of music. In 1966, he met George Harrison, lead guitarist of The Beatles in London. Harrison later came to India to learn to play the sitar from Ravi Shankar. The sitar was, most famously, used in The Beatles ‘Norwegian Wood’, catapulting Ravi Shankar to greater international acclaim.
Members of the music fraternity in India also paid tribute to the musician. “We have lost one of our biggest stars in the world of music,” said singer Kailash Kher, adding that Ravishankar helped spread Indian music in the west and collaborated with musicians abroad. He also took the sitar, a fairly unknown instrument, to great heights, he said.
Carnatic classical musician N Ravikiran said, “Raviji was always gentle and encouraging yet had incisive analytic skills.” Ravikiran, who plays the chitravina, a fretless slide instrument, made his debut in 1969 at the age of two in front of Ravi Shankar and another legendary classicl musician, M S Subbulakshmi.
Ravikiran, now 45, and a renowned musician who gives performances across the world and is involved in a number of international collaborative projects, last met the sitar maestro in April 2011 when he gave a private concert in Ravi Shankar’s house in San Diego in California. “As always he requested pure Carnatic compositions but surprised me but talking about one of my fusion pieces that he’d seen on YouTube. He was always up to date and was one of the rare north Indian musicians who was completely conversant with Carnatic music,” says Ravikiran.
The brother of dance exponent Uday Shankar, Ravi Shankar also scored music for Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ and other Bengali and Hindi movies. “He was a very approachable and sweet person. His approach to music was not bound by any convention,” said Sundaram, who first met Ravi Shankar in 1970 in the US.
Ravi Shankar’s knowledge of south Indian classical music came from spending hours in conversation and collaborating with legends in various styles of music. “He did a lot to bring the two musical systems closer,” says Ravikiran. “He was an inspiration and put Indian music on the world map.”