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Ravi Shankar, who looks at life on both sides now

The Indian sitar player, who has died in California aged 92, formed close relationships on both sides of the western musical divide. His first connection, in 1952, was with Yehudi Menuhin, but it was not until he had been feted by the Beatles in 1965 that the violinist was able to convince his label, EMI, to issue three sitar-violin collaborations.

photo: (c) David Farrell/Lebrecht Music&Arts

(c) Norman Perryman/Lebrecht Music&Arts

Shankar went on to record with the flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, the saxophonist John Coltrane and, in 1990, with the minimalist composer Philip Glass, his sometime pupil. But his fame and influence ran deepest in western pop music. After George Harrison’s original epiphany, Shankar was ‘discovered’, again and again, by the Rolling Stones, the Byrds, the Animals and the Doors. The impact of his ruminative sound on rock guitar playing is indelible.


Throughout, he remained a modest, humble traditionalist, a world apart from the peacock gurus who rode the crest of pop fame. Allan Kozinn has written a note-perfect appreciation in the New York Times.

 


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Comments

  1. Remember hearing Ravi as a student at university. Great evening of music.

  2. I remember a mesmerising concert in 1983 in the Albert Hall . The first time I felt relaxed for years was after hearing Ravi Shankar for the first time. Of course, I did not understand the music in all it’s complexities but it is enough to appreciate and to like what you hear,as it is for most people I suppose. It was great for him to come to the West and spread his music for more to listen to and appreciate. Yes, he had to change the way it was performed to appeal to the western musical tastes but I did go to one concert in the late ’80s, 4 hours long, sitting on the floor with a mainly indian audience, which I imagine was more like the real thing.
    So if he made me explore his culture enough to go and find a real indian experience like this for myself then he succeeded brilliantly in his mission as far as I am concerned. Much respect..

  3. So many people I’ve met have passed on this last week! Charles Rosen I met in college. Galina Vishnevskaya I met backstage at a Boston Symphony Concert (I think Rostropovich was conducting the Shostakovich 8th Sym). And now this latest loss. Ravi Shankar visited my high-school orchestra in the early 70s when I was a budding last-stand second violinist. I unfortunately remember very little of the visit other his great patience explaining and demonstrating the rudiments of his art and technique to a bunch of fascinated teenagers. He also played a performance of his Sitar Concerto with the local symphony orchestra that I attended. Ever since then the classical music of India has been one of my two favorite “world music” genres.

  4. Richard Herger says:

    Interesting that there is no mention that he is the father of popular singer Norah Jones.

    • He was also father of Anoushka Shankar, who his wife’s ex believed was his child until she was 8. He was a ladies man, but not so good at being around the resultant babies. So Norah Jones was not particularly connected to him . Anoushka was personally trained as his successor after he eventually came forward to claim her as his daughter. There may, of course, be others! Secret of a long life??

  5. David Crow says:

    What did Shankar record with John Coltrane?

  6. Shame that after the big-selling album West Meets East was released, Menuhin stopped mentioning the name of composer/pianist (and Indian music specialist in London of that time) Peter Feuchtwanger who had written for him basically every note he “improvised” on the album. Menuhin did mention him in the BBC recording and interview from one of their first collaboration at the Bath Festival, but later on he “forgot”. Feuchtwanger was never payed a dime despite the album’s world success.

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