Ravi Shankar, Indian sitar maestro, dies


A look back at the life of Ravi Shankar

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Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar has died in a hospital in the US, aged 92.

His family said he had been admitted to the Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego last week, but had failed to recover fully from surgery.

Shankar gained widespread international recognition through his association with The Beatles.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described him as a "national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage".

In a statement quoted by Reuters, Shankar's wife Sukanya and daughter Anoushka said he had recently undergone surgery which would have "potentially given him a new lease of life".

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery," they said.

"We were at his side when he passed away.

"Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. He will live forever in our hearts and in his music."

Anoushka Shankar is herself a sitar player. Shankar's other daughter is Grammy award-winning singer Norah Jones.

'Respect for music'

George Harrison of the Beatles once called Shankar "the godfather of world music".

He played at Woodstock and the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, and also collaborated with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.

Ravi Shankar teaches George Harrison the sitar

Shankar also composed a number of film scores - notably Satyajit Ray's celebrated Apu trilogy (1951-55) and Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982) - and collaborated with US composer Philip Glass in Passages in 1990.

Talking in later life about his experiences at the influential Monterey Pop festival, Ravi Shankar said he was "shocked to see people dressing so flamboyantly".

He told Rolling Stone magazine that he was horrified when Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire on stage.

"That was too much for me. In our culture, we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God," he said.

In 1999, Shankar was awarded the highest civilian citation in India - the Bharat Ratna, or Jewel of India.

George Harrison, Ravi Shankar and Patti Boyd

On Wednesday morning, shortly after his death, the Recording Academy of America announced the musician would receive a lifetime achievement award at next year's Grammys.

The Academy's President Neil Portnow said he had been able to inform Shankar of the honour last week.

"He was deeply touched and so pleased," he said, adding, "we have lost an innovative and exceptional talent and a true ambassador of international music".

Born into a Bengali family in the ancient Indian city of Varanasi, Ravi Shankar was originally a dancer with his brother's troupe.

He gave up dancing to study the sitar at the age of 18.

For seven years Shankar studied under Baba Allauddin Khan, founder of the Maihar Gharana style of Hindustani classical music, and became well-known in India for his virtuoso sitar playing.

For the last years of his life, Ravi Shankar lived in Encinitas, California, with his wife.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    He was the swinging little sitar man (copyright Dave Strong, Brussels 1999)

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    We the Bangladeshi people are really grateful to Ravi Shankar and George Harrison for the "Concert for Bangladesh". You'll remain alive forever in our heart.
    Moreover, Ravi Shankar was a Bengali and his father's house was in Bangladesh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Did nothing for me - Cannot see what all the fuss is about

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    I remember when he played for us at Woodstock. It was beautiful and amazing! In Hindi religion and in Buddhism, great muscicians are said to be incarnate angels who take birth to share an art form that will uplift people and bring them wisdom, joy, and personal growth. Mr. Shankar-ji has certainly done that for so many, many, many of us. May he dance and play in light and joy forever! Svaha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Sad news,may God rest his soul.Thanks go to him for wonderful years of music and because of exposure to western world and now with the modern technology we still will enjoy.We will remember him in so many concert halls of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Another great player leaves the stage!

    Had a double LP of Ravi Shankar & Ali Akbar Khan given to me in the 70s - cannot pretend to have understood it all as it was quite deep for my simple guitarist's ears - some truly beautiful passages though!

    To endure for all those years and leave the world a massive musical legacy is an obituary in itself.

    Thanks Ravi Shankar

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @91.Cranial Vacancy

    Your ID really suits you.

    Saw Ravi Shankar many years ago and really enjoyed the concert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Ravi Shankar was a genius with the Sitar and his melodies will live long in the hearts that have grown up with his music. However I'll remember him fondly more so because he was the first Indian stud and proved that fame brings with it romance and affairs. I aspire to that aspect of his life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Always sad when someone dies but in terms of entertainment give me Rylan off X factor any day, he doesnt just sit there he minc.. moves around. Thats what I real entertainment. Each to his own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    The sad death of Ravi Shankar reminds me of the Concert for Bangladesh in which he performed. After his on-stage preparations before a mainly Western audience, he told them: “Thank you – for the appreciation you have shown to the tuning of our instruments – and I hope you enjoy the performance more.” (Those who have the album listen to side one.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Ravi Shankar WAS the Godfather of Indian music as well as being an inspriration to a generation. RIP Ravi SHankar and also deepest sympathies to his family (including his two beautiful talented daughters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones).

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Call it esoteric, call it mellifluousness, call it divine, call it purist, call it experimental or by any other semantic, a Sitarist like him and a doyen of Indian Classical music is born in a millennium. Had been privileged to attend his concerts in India & one in which Allah Rakha, father of Zakir Hussein, accompanied him on Tabla stills rings in after nearly 3 decades. A legend would live on .

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Another of the great ones gone leaving one of these unfillable gaps.
    I'm a jazz and flamenco performer and have seen wonderful recorded examples of RS playing with Paco de Lucia, Stepahne Grappelli and many others.
    Sadly, in the overall musical world, I don't know of any replacements for the likes of Mr Shankar, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubek, Moraito Chico, Dave McKenna, NHØP and so many others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    His music was so.. so... so....
    so..... so......
    Good is not the word!

    He sewed a tapestry of sound.
    He sowed the seeds of sensation.

    ...or was he just so-so?

    So there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The World is a little colder without him...

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Listening to Indian or rather Ravi Shankars music started for us by listening to the pieces played at the Concert For Bangla Desh.
    Although we do not understand the undercurrent of his music completely, we are always struck by the spell of his music; it makes you float a little.

    Thank you Ravi and R.I.P.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I have grown by listening to this Sitar maestro and always enjoyed listening to him and his style and that was thanks to my father. One of ther favourite performances of Pandit Ravi Shankar was at The Woodstock Festival. Watching him and listening to his style was and is an inspiration. May he Rest in Peace. His music will live on through his daughters Anoushka and Norah Jones.

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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