Ravi Shankar, KBE (Bengali: রবি শংকর, IPA: [ˈrɔbi ˈʃɔŋkɔr]; 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012), often referred to by the title Pandit, was an Indian musician and composer who played the sitar, a plucked string instrument. He has been described as the best-known contemporary Indian musician.
Shankar was born in Varanasi and spent his youth touring Europe and India with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing in 1938 to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan. After finishing his studies in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, creating the music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, and was music director of All India Radio, New Delhi, from 1949 to 1956.
In 1956, he began to tour Europe and the Americas playing Indian classical music and increased its popularity there in the 1960s through teaching, performance, and his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and rock artist George Harrison of The Beatles. Shankar engaged Western music by writing concerti for sitar and orchestra and toured the world in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1986 to 1992 he served as a nominated member of the upper chamber of the Parliament of India. Shankar was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999, and received three Grammy Awards. He continued to perform in the 2000s, sometimes with his younger daughter, Anoushka.
Training and work in India
Shankar's parents had died by the time he returned from the European tour, and touring the West had become difficult due to political conflicts that would lead to World War II. Shankar gave up his dancing career in 1938 to go to Maihar and study Indian classical music as Khan's pupil, living with his family in the traditional gurukul system. Khan was a rigorous teacher and Shankar had training on sitar and surbahar, learned ragas and the musical styles dhrupad, dhamar, and khyal, and was taught the techniques of the instruments rudra veena, rubab, and sursingar. He often studied with Khan's children Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi. Shankar began to perform publicly on sitar in December 1939 and his debut performance was a jugalbandi (duet) with Ali Akbar Khan, who played the string instrument sarod.
Shankar completed his training in 1944. Following his training, he moved to Mumbai and joined the Indian People's Theatre Association, for whom he composed music for ballets in 1945 and 1946. Shankar recomposed the music for the popular song "Sare Jahan Se Achcha" at the age of 25. He began to record music for HMV India and worked as a music director for All India Radio (AIR), New Delhi, from February 1949 to January 1956. Shankar founded the Indian National Orchestra at AIR and composed for it; in his compositions he combined Western and classical Indian instrumentation. Beginning in the mid-1950s he composed the music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, which became internationally acclaimed. He was music director for several Hindi movies including Godaan and Anuradha
Shankar won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Prize of the Jury at the 1957 Berlin International Film Festival for composing the music for the movie Kabuliwala. He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 1962, and was named a Fellow of the academy for 1975. Shankar was awarded the three highest national civil honours of India: Padma Bhushan, in 1967, Padma Vibhushan, in 1981, and Bharat Ratna, in 1999. He received the music award of the UNESCO International Music Council in 1975, three Grammy Awards, and was nominated for an Academy Award. Shankar was awarded honorary degrees from universities in India and the United States. He received the Kalidas Samman from the Government of Madhya Pradesh for 1987–88, the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 1991, the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1992, and the Polar Music Prize in 1998. In 2001, Shankar was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Elizabeth II for his "services to music". Shankar was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1997 received the Praemium Imperiale for music from the Japan Art Association. The American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane named his son Ravi Coltrane after Shankar. In 2010, Shankar received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He was also awarded France's highest civilian honour, the Knight of the Legion of Honour. Post his death, Grammy has announced Pandit Ravi Shankar as a recipient of the lifetime achievement Grammy like Glenn Gould, Charlie Haden, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Carole King, Patti Page and the Temptations.
Illness and death
On 6 December 2012, Shankar was admitted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, San Diego, California after complaining of breathing difficulties. He died on 11 December 2012 at around 16:30 PST. According to his spokesman, Stuart Wolferman, Shankar died at a hospital near his home in Encinitas, California. The Ravi Shankar Foundation issued a statement that read Shankar had suffered from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery on 6 December 2012
Condolences were extended by the President of India, Prime Minister of India and Indian parliament, Other reactions from the Indian political and cultural spheres included: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office which wrote on Twitter that he was "a national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage." His cabinet colleague Minister of State for Communications & IT Milind Deora wrote: "Being a maestro wasn't his only achievement. Pandit Ravi Shankar sold Brand India better than anyone else. RIP." Gujurat Chief Minister Narendra Modi added on Twitter: "Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar was the legendary musician who gave new identity to Indian classical music. May his soul rest in peace." While, India's Ambassador to the U.S. Nirupuma Rao also wrote on Twitter: "Pandit Ravi Shankar: his last concert was particularly poignant. Anoushka and he played together in perfect unison. A torch was passed." Other apolitical reactions included: Bollywood composer Vishal Dadlani who wrote on Twitter: "The world's best-known exponent of Indian music, he influenced the Beatles, and hence everything since! RIP Pt. Ravi Shankar." Santoor players Shiv Kumar Sharma said: "It is a great loss, not just to Indian music but to world music. He was a world musician." Novelist Hari Kunzru added on Twitter: "RIP Pandit Ravi Shankar. My father performed hand surgery on him. Stakes not low there..." Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (not related) also wrote on Twitter: "Pandit Ravi Shankar was a legend in music and he took classical music to new heights." His death was also noted in the international and foreign language media.
Shankar performs in Delhi in March 2009
|Birth name||Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury|
|Born||7 April 1920|
Varanasi, United Provinces,British India
|Died||11 December 2012 (aged 92)|
La Jolla, San Diego, California,United States
|Genres||Hindustani classical music|
|Labels||East Meets West Music|
|Associated acts||Uday Shankar, Allauddin Khan,Ali Akbar Khan, Lakshmi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhin,Chatur Lal, Alla Rakha, George Harrison, Anoushka Shankar,Norah Jones, The Beatles, John Coltrane|