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.