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Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar dies at 92
Question of the Day
“I was shocked to see people dressing so flamboyantly. They were all stoned. To me, it was a new world,” Shankar told Rolling Stone of the Monterey festival.
While he enjoyed Otis Redding and the Mamas and the Papas at the festival, he was horrified when Hendrix lit his guitar on fire.
In 1971, moved by the nightmare of millions of refugees fleeing into India to escape the war in Bangladesh, Shankar reached out to Harrison. In what Shankar later described as “one of the most moving and intense musical experiences of the century,” the pair organized two benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden. The concert, which led to an album and a film, raised millions of dollars for UNICEF, although some money went missing and legal battles ensued. But a new tradition had started and benefit shows continue to this day, from the 1985 Live Aid concert to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia to Wednesday’s 12-12-12 concert for Sandy victims.
Ravindra Shankar Chowdhury was born April 7, 1920, in the Indian city of Varanasi.
At the age of 10, he moved to Paris to join the world famous dance troupe of his brother Uday. Over the next eight years, Shankar traveled with the troupe across Europe, America and Asia, and later credited his early immersion in foreign cultures with making him such an effective ambassador for Indian music.
During one tour, renowned musician Baba Allaudin Khan joined the troupe, took Shankar under his wing and eventually became his teacher through 7 1/2 years of isolated, rigorous study of the sitar.
“Khan told me you have to leave everything else and do one thing properly,” Shankar told The Associated Press.
In the 1950s, Shankar began gaining fame throughout India. He held the influential position of music director for All India Radio in New Delhi and wrote the scores for several popular films, including Satyajit Ray’s celebrated “Apu” trilogy. He began writing compositions for orchestras, blending clarinets and other foreign instruments into traditional Indian music.
And he became a de facto tutor for Westerners fascinated by India’s musical traditions.
He gave lessons to Coltrane, who named his son Ravi in Shankar’s honor, and became close friends with Menuhin, recording the acclaimed “West Meets East” album with him. He also collaborated with flutist Jean Pierre Rampal, composer Philip Glass and conductors Andre Previn and Zubin Mehta.
“Any player on any instrument with any ears would be deeply moved by Ravi Shankar. If you love music, it would be impossible not to be,” singer David Crosby, a member of the Byrds in the `60s, said in the book “The Dawn of Indian Music in the West: Bhairavi.”
Shankar’s personal life, however, was troubled.
His 1941 marriage to Baba Allaudin Khan’s daughter, Annapurna Devi, ended in divorce. Though he had a decades-long relationship with dancer Kamala Shastri that ended in 1981, he had relationships with several other women in the 1970s.
He grew estranged from Sue Jones in the `80s and didn’t see Norah for a decade, though they later re-established contact.
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