Ravi Shankar, Sitar Master Who Spread Indian Music, Dies at 92

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 10:50 PM

Ravi Shankar, the sitar player and composer who became India's most influential musician, died Tuesday evening in San Diego, CA. He was 92.

Shankar's death came after he underwent heart-valve replacement surgery on Thursday. He had been suffering from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year, said his New York-based representative.

Shankar is best known for having influenced the Beatles – and much of the youth counterculture – during the 1960s, performing at the legendary Woodstock and Monterrey Pop music festivals. He also put a distinctive stamp on classical music. Between 1967 and 1976 he made three "West Meets East" albums with the American violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Featuring the hypnotic interplay of Menuhin's violin and Shankar's sitar, the albums were critical and commercial successes and won a Grammy Award.

"Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift and through him I have added a new dimension to my experience of music," Menuhin once said.

Other Western classical musicians sought out the sitar player. Shankar collaborated with the flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, among other soloists. He composed three concertos for sitar and orchestra: for the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic (led by Zubin Mehta) and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Shankar also worked with Philip Glass, whose minimalist aesthetic had an affinity with the patterns of North Indian ragas. Their collaborations included the 1990 album "Passages," and Orion for the Athens 2004 Cultural Olympiad. In a 1985 interview on WNYC's New Sounds, Shankar recalled meeting Glass at a recording session for the soundtrack to the 1966 film "Chappaqua." "He was so curious," Shankar said. "He was asking questions about ragas, talas and counting. In that period of six or seven sessions I told him as much as I could."

Although his health declined in recent years, Shankar remained active in music: he and his musician daughter Anoushka had been nominated for a 2013 Grammy in the world music category. In a statement, Shankar's family said, "Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music."

Below is a video of Shankar and Menuhin performing in the 1970s.

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Comments [6]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

RAVI SHANKAR was for music a guru of sorts, considering how appreciated his musical compositions, his sitar playing, his playing of other Indian composers music was to western music aficianados. When musicians of such a wide difference of performing styles as Yehudi Menuhin and the Beattles praise him for his enterprise in bringing his music and the sitar to the world's attention and respect that demonstrates his talent and his humanistic concerns. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor and an opera composer. My cousin MICHAEL BLANKFORT wrote both the books and screenplays for the 1953 film THE JUGGLER Hollywood film made in Israel starring KIRK DOUGLAS and the 1950 Hollywood film BROKEN ARROW starring JAMES STEWART and JEFF CHANDLER [Cochise]. The music for THE JUGGLER was composed by opera composer GEORGE ANTHEIL, in whose opera VOLPONE I sang the tenor leading role [Mosca] in its professional world premiere in NEW YORK in 1953. ANTHEIL, famous for his opera TRANSATLANTIC and BALLET MECHANIQUE looked exactly like Peter Lorre. I am a romantischer heldentenor. I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I opened my three hour concert with the Invocazione di Orfeo from Jacopo Peri's opera EURIDICE composed in 1600, the first opera, composed in the same year as Shakespeare wrote HAMLET. Also, Florestan's monologue "Gott! welch dunkel hier!' from "FIDELIO" and "Sound an Alarm" from RAVI SHANKAR was for music a guru of sorts, considering how appreciated his musical compositions, his sitar playing, his playing of other Indian composers music was to western music aficianados. When musicians of such a wide difference of performing styles as Yehudi Menuhin and the Beattles praise him for his enterprise in bringing his music and the sitar to the world's attention and respect that demonstrates his talent and his humanistic concerns. Handel's "JUDAS MACCABAEUS." They can be heard from my live performance on my three websites, www.WagnerOpera.com, , www.ShakespeareOpera.com, and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com. They received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. My voice teachers were the legendary MET OPERA singers Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell and Margarete Matzenauer. As an opera composer myself ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"] I fully comprehend the assumed urgency of recognition of the still living. I am the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute in Boonton, NJ where I train actors in all the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers in all the Wagner opera roles. On my websites one may download, free, at "Recorded Selections" my singing of Siegfried, Gotterdammerung Siegfried, Tristan, Siegmund, Parsifal, Lohengrin, Rienzi, Walther von Stolzing, Otello, Eleazar and Florestan.

Dec. 12 2012 06:15 PM
Donald Frazell from The LBC

Pandit Shankar was known and influential in avante gard jazz from the 1950s on, and John Coltrane named his son Ravi before the Beatless had even heard of him. Glass and Harrison simply put acceptable white faces and simplistic musical forms devolving his Ragas into lullabies and bombastic idiocies on his truly great music. Hopefully it will get people into actually listening and FEELING his work,and that of so many other truly great musicians.

Dec. 12 2012 01:58 PM
Marilyn Stephan from Fort Lauderdale, FL

Any chance you will be playing Bob Sherman's Listening Room Interview with Ravi Shankar today. Ravi Shankar appeared live on the Listenig Room the davy Indira Gandi was assassinated, October 31, 1984. I remember meeting him, as I was Bob' assistant at that time. A great artist and a great man.

Dec. 12 2012 12:52 PM

Truly a sad day, his spirit shall be missed.

Dec. 12 2012 10:10 AM
Michael Keller

For a fuller sense of Mr Shankar's life, please see http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/dec/12/ravi-shankar-dies

Dec. 12 2012 04:32 AM
Nicholas Schiavone from Rye, NY

Joy and Peace to all that have listened in wonder & awe.

Dec. 12 2012 02:46 AM

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