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Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar passes away

M. Ramesh
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A three-time Grammy award winner, Pandit Ravi Shankar last performed in California on November 4 along with his daughter Anoushka Shankar.
A three-time Grammy award winner, Pandit Ravi Shankar last performed in California on November 4 along with his daughter Anoushka Shankar.

Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, one of the greatest musicians India ever produced, passed away in a hospital in San Diego, California, at 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday. He was 92. Panditji is survived by his wife Sukanya and musician daughters, sitar player Anushka Shankar and singer Norah Jones.

Recipient of India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, and of course, innumerable other awards and accolades in a musical career that spanned seven decades, he was also a member of the Rajya Sabha between 1986 and 1992.

Born on April 7, 1920, as the last of seven brothers in a Bengali Brahmin family, ‘Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury’ spent his early days with his brother’s dance troupe, but in 1938, he gave up dancing and took to the study of the stringed instrument, sitar, under Allauddin Khan.

Since his first overseas concert tour in 1956, Ravi Shankar (his father, a lawyer in London, whom he did not see until he was eight, shortened his name and dropped the family name) was the face of Indian classical music to the world. In the 1960s, his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and rock artiste George Harrison of The Beatles brought him international fame. Impressed with Ravi Shankar, Harrison became his sishya and learnt sitar from him. Ravi Shankar’s association with the Western legends kicked off a raga-rock trend, where rock music was influenced by Indian classical music.

Talented, rich and famous, Pandit Ravi Shankar led a rocking life. His first marriage was with Annapurna Devi, the daughter of his teacher, Allauddin Khan. They soon separated after Ravi Shankar had a relationship with dancer, Kamala Shastri, which also folded up. Celebrated singer-actress, Norah Jones, was born to Ravi Shankar and Sue Jones, a New York concert producer. Then Ravi Shankar, aged 69, married Sukanya Rajan, and the marriage produced Anoushka Shankar, who is a sitar artiste in her own right.

A three-time Grammy award winner, Shankar last performed in California on November 4 along with Anoushka.

Shankar has also been nominated for the 2013 Grammys for his album “The Living Room Sessions Part—1” and was pitted against Anoushka in the same category.

ramesh.m@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 12, 2012)
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