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Shankar, Ravi

Ravi Shankar

Sitarist, conductor, composer

For the Record

The Pioneer Period

The Superstar Period

The Classicist Period

Musical Legacy

Selected discography

Sources

From his small, low platform covered with Indian rugs, Ravi Shankar has brought the music of India to audiences around the world. He has introduced the sitara long-necked Indian Luteto such new domains as film, ballet, and orchestra. A complete musician, he is renowned equally as a concert soloist, composer, and conductor. He is also one of the few composers to have been greatly appreciated and embraced by such diverse audiences as the classical, jazz, pop, ethnic, and New Age music circles. It seems inevitable that his greatest wish will come true: above all things to be remembered for his musical creations.

Shankar was born Robindro Shankar on April 7, 1920, in Benares, which is considered the holiest of cities in India. He was the youngest son of a family of Bengali Brahmins, coming from an upper-class background. When he was ten years old Ravi was sent to Paris where his eldest brother, the great dancer Uday Shankar, had a troupe of gifted Indian dancers and musicians. Ravi became quite successful and was soon billed as a star dancer in their tours of Europe and the United States. He also attended school in Paris where he met many great musicians who exposed him to Western music.

In 1935 Uday invited sarod master Ustad Allauddin Khan to join the company and play as the principle soloist. Ravi was deeply impressed by his playing and spent most of the following year acting as Allauddin Khans interpreter and guide in the hope of becoming his pupil. Before his departure Khan agreed to teach Ravi to play the sitar only if he gave up the fame and fortune of the artists life in Paris and came to study with him in Maihar, a small village in India.

After a year of soul-searching Ravi decided to go to Maihar and submerge himself in intensive study and total dedication to his guru, Allauddin Khan. He shaved his head, wore clothes of coarse material, and slept only four or five hours a night with a one-hour nap in the afternoon. Ravi would then practice for 12 hours a day, sometimes until his fingers bled. The rest of the time was devoted to study, prayer, and meditation with the guru. When music is not written down and you learn by an oral tradition, Shankar was quoted as saying in the Washington Post, what is transmitted by the guru is not merely a technique but a feeling. My guru taught me that the best way to worship is by music.

After seven and a half years of study, Ravi became a virtuoso and began playing concerts throughout India. He married his gurus daughter, Annapurna, once he had established himself as a success. He then founded the Vadya Vrinda, the Indian National Orchestra at All-India Radio. For the next seven years, Shankar conducted most of the concerts and wrote some 200 compositions.

For the Record

Born Robindro Shankar on April 7, 1920, in Benares, India; married Annapurna Allauddin, 1941; divorced, 1958; married Sukanya Rajan, 1989; children: (with Allauddin) Shubho, (with Rajan) Anouska.

Sitarist, conductor, and composer; international performer, 1956-; performed with George Harrison at Hollywood Bowl, 1967; published autobiography, My Music, My Life, 1968; performed as classicist, 1979; engaged in instruction and development of the arts in India, late 1980s-early 1990s; artistic director of ASIAD, the Olympic gathering of Asia, 1982; composer of music for films, including Father Panchali, Kabuliwala, and Ghandi, and for ballets; author of autobiography Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar, published, 1999; opened Ravi Shankar Centre in New Delhi, India, 2001; released Grammy Award-winning Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000, 2002.

Awards: Cannes Film Festival, first prize in musical direction for Father Fanchali, 1955; Berlin Film Festival, Silver Bear Prize for Best Film Score for Kabuliwala, late 1950s; Presidents Medal (India) for film score for Anuradha, 1961, and for outstanding contribution to Indian music and culture, 1962; Grammy Award, Best Chamber Music Performance for West Meets East (with Yehudi Menuhin), 1967, and Album of the Year for the Concert For Bangladesh (with others), 1972; made Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 2001; Grammy Award, Best World Music Album for Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000, 2002; honorary member of American Academy of Arts and Letters; elected fellow of Sangeet Natak Academy; awarded Padma Visbushan, Indias highest civilian honor.

Addresses: Website Ravi Shankar Official Website: http://www.ravishankar.org.

The Pioneer Period

In 1956 Shankar made his American debut in New York City and was received with critical and public acclaim. This began what he has referred to as the pioneer stage of his career, where he gradually became well known to the classical world and was simultaneously discovered in jazz circles. At first he played to modest audiences in town halls, college auditoriums, and the smaller stages on both of the American coasts. His Manáger had trouble booking engagements in the Midwest at all. Although he was one of the first performers of classical Indian music to tour the United States, interest in his work grew rapidly, and within a matter of a few years he played Carnegie Hall.

In Europe Shankar quickly established himself as a musical phenomenon through collaboration with other classical masters. In 1958 he appeared at the UNESCO Music Festival in Paris, performing with the great violinists Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh. A couple of years later his first Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra was commissioned and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by André Previn. International recognition was decidedly achieved when Shankar wrote a composition for violin and sitar for Yehudi Menuhin and himself called West Meets East. They appeared in concert at the United Nations to celebrate Human Rights Day. The album West Meets East won the Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance in 1967. Menuhin commented on the recording experience in Life magazine: We sat incarcerated for three days in the aura of incense to which Ravi always plays. The whole object of the music lies in creating an aura which liberates mens thoughts and demands complete surrender.

Shankars career suddenly shifted gears in the mid-1960s with the association of another gifted musician. In 1966 George Harrison heard one of Shankars albums and quickly arranged to meet him at a dinner party. Ravi was impressed by Harrisons sincerity and reverence toward Indian music and invited him to come study in India. Harrison eventually spent seven weeks in India learning how to play the sitar but was required to return to England to rejoin the Beatles. To show his gratitude for the instruction, Harrison flew in to join Shankar at his Hollywood Bowl concert in the summer of 1967 and the two of them held press conferences and fielded questions regarding their collaboration.

The Superstar Period

These events drew the attention of English and American youth cultures, which began attending Shankars concerts in droves. Almost overnight he achieved superstar status. His record company put out ads stating: We love Ravi, do you? Record sales leapt up and his asking price per concert doubled from $2,000 to $4,000. Full-color posters of him posing next to his sitar were sold in record shops everywhere. Now that he was a part of the youth culture, he was invited to play with pop and rock groups at the Monterey Pop Festival later that year and again at Woodstock in 1969.

Shankar, however, was not entirely pleased with this burst of popularity and often scolded his audiences for their lack of respect toward the music. He repeatedly explained to journalists that he was not an advocate of the drug culture and that he was never on drugs when he played but rather in a deep spiritual state. Though I understand it I feel a little bit sorry to be appreciated from a wrong angle, Shankar was quoted as saying in Life magazine. Its a go-man-go attitude, not the proper one. Its not [the audiences] fault that they are looking for instant Karma.

In 1971 Shankar joined Harrison for two sold-out charity concerts at Madison Square Garden to help the refugees of Bangladesh. At least $25,000 was raised from ticket sales and donated to the United Nations Childrens Fund. A three-album recording of the concert called The Concert for Bangladesh was later released and generated an additional $15 million for the refugees. The recording also won Album of the Year honors at the Grammy Awards in 1972. However, the strain of touring with Harrison and The Festival of India over the next few years finally got to Shankar and ultimately drove him to a nervous breakdown in 1975. He subsequently disappeared from the concert circuit for the next two years.

The Classicist Period

When he returned to the stage, Shankar chose to play only venues for classical or ethnic music and thereby avoided the popular music following. This new phase began with a United States premiere of the Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Years later in an interview for Musical America, Shankar reflected on how his audience had changed from this point on in his career: Yes, they have changed, changed for the better. It is no longer the esoteric, over-excited ethnic business it once was. He retained only a small percentage of the mass youth culture but kept a large following of Indian immigrants and Indian music lovers.

The next few years saw a creative burst for Shankar in which he combined the sitar with the music of other cultures. In 1979 he embarked on his East Greets East tour, which blended the classical music of Japan and India. He wrote the piece for Hosan Yamamoto, a master of the Japanese bass flute, and for koto expert Musumi Miyashita. Afterwards he wrote new music for the French flute virtuoso Jean-Pierre Rampal. In the following year the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Zubin Mehta, commissioned a second sitar concerto from Shankar. The Garland of Ragas or Raga Mala premiered at Lincoln Centers Avery Fisher Hall; this fusion of Indian music with Western classical orchestration was received with enthusiastic reviews.

In 1982 Shankar won great applause for his film score to the Academy Award-winning motion picture Ghandi. This was not unfamiliar territory for him, however. In the 1950s his film music to the Pather Panchali trilogy and to Kabuliwala had won him awards at the Cannes, Venice, and Berlin film festivals. These honors made him the first Indian musician to receive an award for best music direction from a foreign country. Shankar also composed film music for a number of American and European commercial movies, the most renowned being the incidental music to Jonathan Millers controversial version of Alice in Wonderland on BBC.

In 1984 Shankar turned his attention to teaching. He felt it was important to continue the ancient guru/disciple tradition, and taught classes restricted to eight or ten of the most talented students in India. Teaching was nothing new to Shankar. As early as 1967 he founded the Kinnara school of Indian music in Bombay. A few years later he opened another branch in Los Angeles. He also chaired the department of Indian Music at the California Institute of Art. Afterwards he was to be the first musician invited as a Challigar Professor at City College in New York City. Even his autobiography, My Music, My Life, is still used as a textbook in ethnic music college courses.

In July of 1988 the Palace of Culture of the Soviet Union premiered Shankars Swar Milan, although the recording of the concert was called Inside the Kremlin. It was an epic piece with seven passages, using more than 140 musicians and singers from the Russian Folk Ensemble, the Chamber Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic, the Government Chorus from the Ministry of Culture, and Shankars own Indian ensemble. The composition was successful in bringing together the various music of these greatly different cultures, and once again Shankar was able to create a completely new sound.

Ballet is yet another music medium to which he has contributed extensively over the years. Starting as far back as 1967, Shankar received great recognition for his American debut of Samanya Ksnati. He later wrote two other ballets, India Immortal and Discovery of India, which were inspired primarily by his native history and mythology. Both were well received critically and were considered landmarks in contemporary ballet music. 1990 saw the United States premiere of the ballet Ghyanshyam: The Broken Branch. It was about a dancer addicted to drugs; Shankar wrote it because he wanted to promote the need for a spiritual resurgence in modern society.

Musical Legacy

Since then Shankar has spent most of his time in India teaching and playing concerts. There has been a renaissance in the arts there, and he continues to contribute to it generously and innovatively. He has developed multimedia projects that involve music, dance, film, and performance art based on Indian themes. In 1990 he collaborated with minimalist composer Philip Glass and released an album of new age music called Passages. An autobiography, Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar, which was edited by George Harrison, was published in 1999. It inspired the documentary Ravi Shankar, Between Two Worlds, released in 2002. Shankar made what was reported to be a farewell tour in 2001, but he indicated his intention to continuing performing in Down Beat This is a final American tour. As long as my body and mind permit, and as long as people want to hear me, I intend to continue to give performances for special events. Shankar was made Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001 and won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for the live album Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 in 2002.

Although he continues to create music and tour, Shankar has focused a great deal of attention on the Ravi Shankar Centre in New Delhi, a school for exceptional students of the traditional Indian system of gurukul learning and archive of Shankars work, established in 2001. Shankar hoped to make the centre a structure which will be a universal home of peace through the essence of music and related arts, he told Iris Brooks of World and I. Shankars daughter, Anoushka, has become a renown sitarist in her own right. She tours with her father and has released solo work on CD.

Selected discography

Ravi Shankar, Indias Master Musician, World-Pacific, 1958.

Improvisations, World-Pacific, 1962.

Ravi Shankar, Portrait of Genius, Angel, 1964.

Indias Master Musician: Ravi Shankar, EMI, 1964.

Ragas and Talas, Angel, 1964.

Menuhin Meets Shankar, Angel, 1966.

The Sound of the Sitar, World-Pacific, BGO, 1966.

The Sounds of India: Ravi Shankar, Columbia, 1966.

Three Ragas, Capitol, 1966.

Exotic Sitar and Sarod, Capitol, 1967.

Ravi Shankar in San Francisco, World-Pacific, 1967.

Ravi Shankar at the Monterey International Festival, Angel, 1967.

Two Raga Moods, Capitol, 1967.

West Meets East (two volumes), Angel, 1967.

A Morning Raga, An Evening Raga, Angel, 1968.

Chappaqua (soundtrack), Columbia, 1968.

Charly (soundtrack), World-Pacific, 1968.

Ravi Shankar in New York, World-Pacific, 1968.

Ravi Shankar, Capitol, 1968.

Six Ragas, Capitol, 1968.

Ravi Shankar at the Woodstock Festival, World-Pacific, 1970.

Raga (soundtrack), Apple, 1971.

Shankar: Concerto # 1 for Sitar and Orchestra, Angel, 1971.

(Contributor) The Concert for Bangladesh, Apple, 1971.

In Concert, Apple, 1972.

Transmigration Macabre, Spark, 1973.

Shankar Family and Friends, Dark Horse/A&M, 1974.

Raga Parameshwari, Capitol, 1976.

Ravi Shankars Festival From India, Dark Horse/A&M, 1976.

Easf Greets East, Deutsche Grammophon, 1978.

Ragas Hameer and Gara, Deutsche Grammophon, 1979.

Homage to Mahatma Ghandi and Baba Allauddin, Deutsche Grammophon, 1981.

Ghandi (soundtrack), RCA, 1982.

Inside the Kremlin, Private Music, 1989.

(With Philip Glass) Passages, Private Music, 1990.

(Contributor) The Tiger and the Brahmin, Kid Rhino, 1992.

Farewell, My Friend, EMI India, 1992.

Ravi Shankar, Deutsche Grammophon, 1993.

In Celebration (4-CD box set), Angel, 1995.

Chants of India, Angel, 1997.

Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 (live), Angel, 2001.

Sources

Books

The Complete Marquis Whos Who, Marquis Whos Who, 2001.

Periodicals

Down Beat, March 2002.

Frets Magazine, November 1979.

Life, August 18, 1967.

Musical America, September 1982.

New York Times, December 27, 1968; January 5, 1972;December 14, 1974; November 12, 1979; March 16, 1980;September 13, 1985; April 24, 1987; December 24, 1990.

People, November 9, 1998.

Pittsburgh Magazine, October 1984.

PR Newswire, February 8, 2001.

Publishers Weekly, December 13, 1999.

Time, June 14, 1968.

Twin Citian (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN), December 1967.

Washington Post, June 19, 1985.

World and I, March 2002.

Online

Library of Congress, http://catalog.loc.gov (August 4, 2002).

Ravi Shankar, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 4, 2002).

Shankars World Captured on Film, RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/newsarticle.asp?nid=15802&cf=1622 (August 5, 2002). The Recording Academy, http://www.grammy.com (August 4, 2002).

Additional information for this profile was obtained from press releases, World-Pacific Records, 1967, and Private Music Records, 1989.

Christian Whitaker

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Shankar, Ravi

Ravi Shankar

Sitarist, conductor, composer

For the Record

The Pioneer Period

The Superstar Period

The Classicist Period

Selected discography

Sources

From his small, low platform covered with Indian rugs, Ravi Shankar has brought the music of India to audiences around the world. He has introduced the sitara long-necked Indian Luteto such new domains as film, ballet, and orchestra. A complete musician, he is renowned equally as a concert soloist, composer, and conductor. He is also one of the few composers to have been greatly appreciated and embraced by such diverse audiences as the classical, jazz, pop, ethnic, and new age music circles. It seems inevitable that his greatest wish will come true: above all things to be remembered for his musical creations.

Shankar was born April 7, 1920, in Benares, which is considered the holiest of cities in India. He was the youngest son of a family of Bengali Brahmins, coming from an upper-class background. When he was ten years old Ravi was sent to Paris where his eldest brother, the great dancer Uday Shankar, had a troupe of gifted Indian dancers and musicians. Ravi became quite successful and was soon billed as a star dancer in their tours of Europe and the United States. He also attended school in Paris where he met many great musicians who exposed him to Western music.

In 1935 Uday invited sarod master Ustad Allauddin Khan to join the company and play as the principle soloist. Ravi was deeply impressed by his playing and spent most of the following year acting as Allauddin Khans interpreter and guide in the hope of becoming his pupil. Before his departure Khan agreed to teach Ravi to play the sitar only if he gave up the fame and fortune of the artists life in Paris and came to study with him in Maihar, a small village in India.

After a year of soul-searching Ravi decided to go to Maihar and submerge himself in intensive study and total dedication to his guru, Allauddin Khan. He shaved his head, wore clothes of course material, and slept only four or five hours a night with a one-hour nap in the afternoon. Ravi would then practice for 12 hours a day, sometimes until his fingers bled. The rest of the time was devoted to study, prayer, and meditation with the guru. When music is not written down and you learn by an oral tradition, Shankar was quoted as saying in the Washington Post, what is transmitted by the guru is not merely a technique but a feeling. My guru taught me that the best way to worship is by music.

After seven and a half years of study Ravi became a virtuoso and began playing concerts throughout India. He married his gurus daughter, Annapurna, once he had established himself as a success. He then founded the Vadya Vrinda, the Indian National Orchestra at All-India Radio. For the next seven years Shankar conducted

For the Record

Born April 7, 1920, in Benares, India; married Annapuma Allauddin, 1945 (divorced, 1958); married Sukanya Rajan, 1989; children: (first marriage) Shubho.

Sitarist, conductor, and composer. International performer, beginning in 1956; performed with George Harrison at Hollywood Bowl, 1967; performed as classicist, 1979; engaged in instruction and development of the arts in India, late 1980s-early 1990s. Artistic director of ASIAD, the Olympic gathering of Asia, 1982. Composer of music for films, including Pather Panchali, Kabuliwah, and Ghandi, and for ballets. Author of autobiography My Music, My Life.

Awards: First prize in musical direction, Cannes Film Festival, 1955, for Pather Panchali; Silver Bear Prize for best film score at Berlin Film Festival, late 1950s, for Kabuliwala; Presidents Medal (India), 1961, for film score Anuradha, and 1962, for outstanding contribution to Indian music and culture; Grammy Award nomination for best folk recording, 1966, for The Sound of the Sitar, and for best chamber music performance, 1977, for Improvisations; classical record performance of the year, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1967, for West Meets East; honorary member of American Academy of Arts and Letters; elected fellow of Sangeet Natak Academy; awarded Padma Visbushan, Indias highest civilian honor.

Addresses: Record company Private Music, 220 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010.

most of the concerts and wrote some 200 compositions.

The Pioneer Period

In 1956 Shankar made his American debut in New York City and was received with critical and public acclaim. This began what he has referred to as the pioneer stage of his career, where he gradually became well known to the classical world and was simultaneously discovered in jazz circles. At first he played to modest audiences in town halls, college auditoriums, and the smaller stages on both of the American coasts. His manager had trouble booking engagements in the Midwest at all. Although he was one of the first performers of classical Indian music to tour the United States, interest in his work grew rapidly, and within a matter of a few years he played Carnegie Hall.

In Europe Shankar quickly established himself as a musical phenomenon through collaboration with other classical masters. In 1958 he appeared at the UNESCO Music Festival in Paris, performing with the great violinists Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh. A couple of years later his first Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra was commissioned and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Andre Previn. International recognition was decidedly achieved when Shankar wrote a composition for violin and sitar for Yehudi Menuhin and himself called West Meets East. They appeared in concert at the United Nations to celebrate Human Rights Day. The recording of the piece was voted the classical record performance of the year by the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Menuhin commented on the recording experience in Life magazine: We sat incarcerated for three days in the aura of incense to which Ravi always plays. The whole object of the music lies in creating an aura which liberates mens thoughts and demands complete surrender.

Shankars career suddenly shifted gears in the mid-1960s with the association of another gifted musician. In 1966 George Harrison heard one of Shankars albums and quickly arranged to meet him at a dinner party. Ravi was impressed by Harrisons sincerity and reverence toward Indian music and invited him to come study in India. Harrison eventually spent seven weeks in India learning how to play the sitar but was required to return to England to rejoin the Beatles. To show his gratitude for the instruction Harrison flew in to join Shankar at his Hollywood Bowl concert in the summer of 1967 and the two of them held press conferences and fielded questions regarding their collaboration.

The Superstar Period

These events drew the attention of English and American youth cultures, which began attending Shankars concerts in droves. Almost overnight he achieved superstar status. His record company put out ads stating: We love Ravi, do you? Record sales leapt up and his asking price per concert doubled from $2,000 to $4, 000. Full-color posters of him posing next to his sitar were sold in record shops everywhere. Now that he was a part of the youth culture, he was invited to play with pop and rock groups at the Monterey Pop Festival later that year and again at Woodstock in 1969.

Shankar, however, was not entirely pleased with this burst of popularity and often scolded his audiences for their lack of respect toward the music. He repeatedly explained to journalists that he was not an advocate of the drug culture and that he was never on drugs when he played but rather in a deep spiritual state. Though I understand it I feel a little bit sorry to be appreciated from a wrong angle, Shankar was quoted as saying in Life magazine.Its a go-man-go attitude, not the proper one.... Its not [the audiences] fault that they are looking for instant Karma.

In 1971 Shankar joined Harrison for two sold-out charity concerts at Madison Square Garden to help the refugees of Bangladesh. At least $25,000 was raised from ticket sales and donated to the United Nations Childrens Fund. A three-album recording of the concert called The Concert for Bangladesh was later released and generated an additional $15 million for the refugees. However, the strain of touring with Harrison and The Festival of India over the next few years finally got to Shankar and ultimately drove him to a nervous breakdown in 1975. He subsequently disappeared from the concert circuit for the next two years.

The Classicist Period

When he returned to the stage, Shankar chose to play only venues for classical or ethnic music and thereby avoided the popular music following. This new phase began with a U.S. premiere of the Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Years later in an interview for Musical America, Shankar reflected on how his audience had changed from this point on in his career:Yes, they have changed, changed for the better. It is no longer the esoteric, over-excited ethnic business it once was. He retained only a small percentage of the mass youth culture but kept a large following of Indian immigrants and Indian music lovers.

The next few years saw a creative burst for Shankar in which he combined the sitar with the music of other cultures. In 1979 he embarked on his East Greets East tour, which blended the classical music of Japan and India. He wrote the piece for Hosan Yamamoto, a master of the Japanese bass flute, and for koto expert Musumi Miyashita. Afterwards he wrote new music for the French flute virtuoso Jean-Pierre Rampal. In the following year the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Zubin Mehta, commissioned a second sitar concerto from Shankar. The Garland of Ragas or Raga Mala premiered at Lincoln Centers Avery Fisher Hall; this fusion of Indian music with Western classical orchestration was received with enthusiastic reviews.

In 1982 Shankar won great applause for his film score to the Academy Award-winning motion picture Ghandi. This was not unfamiliar territory for him, however. In the 1950s his film music to the Pather Panchali trilogy and to Kabuliwala had won him awards at the Cannes, Venice, and Berlin film festivals. These honors made him the first Indian musician to receive an award for best music direction from a foreign country. Shankar also composed film music for a number of American and European commercial movies, the most renowned being the incidental music to Jonathan Millers controversial version of Alice in Wonderland on BBC.

In 1984 Shankar turned his attention to teaching. He felt it was important to continue the ancient guru/disciple tradition, and taught classes restricted to eight or ten of the most talented students in India. Teaching was nothing new to Shankar. As early as 1967 he founded the Kinnara school of Indian music in Bombay. A few years later he opened another branch in Los Angeles. He also chaired the department of Indian Music at the California Institute of Art. Afterwards he was to be the first musician invited as a Challigar Professor at City College in New York City. Even his autobiography, My Music, My Life, is still used as a textbook in ethnic music college courses.

In July of 1988 the Palace of Culture of the Soviet Union premiered Shankars Swar Milan, although the recording of the concert was called Inside the Kremlin. It was an epic piece with seven passages, using more than 140 musicians and singers from the Russian Folk Ensemble, the Chamber Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic, the Government Chorus from the Ministry of Culture, and Shankars own Indian ensemble. The composition was successful in bringing together the various music of these greatly different cultures, and once again Shankar was able to create a completely new sound.

Ballet is yet another music medium to which he has contributed extensively over the years. Starting as far back as 1967, Shankar received great recognition for his American debut of Samanya Ksnati. He later wrote two other ballets, India Immortal and Discovery of India, which were inspired primarily by his native history and mythology. Both were well received critically and were considered landmarks in contemporary ballet music. 1990 saw the U.S. premiere of the ballet Ghyanshyam: The Broken Branch. It was about a dancer addicted to drugs; Shankar wrote it because he wanted to promote the need for a spiritual resurgence in modern society.

Since then Shankar has spent most of his time in India teaching and playing concerts. There has been a renaissance in the arts there, and he continues to contribute to it generously and innovatively. He has developed multimedia projects that involve music, dance, film, and performance art based on Indian themes. In 1990 he collaborated with minimalist composer Philip Glass and released an album of new age music called Passages. Perhaps this will herald a new period in his already rich and varied musical career.

Selected discography

The Sound of the Sitar, World-Pacific, 1966.

West Meets East (two volumes), Angel, 1967.

Improvisations, World-Pacific, 1977.

Inside the Kremlin (recorded in 1988), Private Music, 1989.

(With Philip Glass)Passages, Private Music, 1990.

(Contributor)The Tiger and the Brahmin, Kid Rhino, 1992.

The Concert for Bangladesh, Apple.

The Anthology of Indian Music, Volume 1, World-Pacific.

Classical Indian Music, Odeon.

Classical Music of India, Odeon.

East Greets East, Deutsche Grammophon.

Exotic Sitar and Sarod, Capitol.

The Genius of Ravi Shankar, Columbia.

Homage to Mahatma Ghandi and Baba Allauddin, Deutsche Grammophon.

In Concert, Ravi Shankar, World-Pacific.

India, Its Music and Its People, Desto.

Indias Master Musician: Ravi Shankar, World-Pacific.

The Master Musicians of India, Prestige.

A Morning Raga, An Evening Raga, World-Pacific.

Music of India, Angel.

Pandit Ravi Shankar, Odeon .

(With Ali Akbar Kahn)Raga Mishra Piloo, Angel.

Raga Parameshwari, Capitol .

Ragas and Talas, World-Pacific.

Ragas Hameer and Gara, Deutsche Grammophon.

Ragas Jogeshwari, Deutsche Grammophon.

Ravi Shankar, Capitol.

Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, Odeon.

Ravi Shankar and His Festival From India, World-Pacific.

Ravi Shankar at the Monterey International Festival, World- Pacific.

Ravi Shankar at the Woodstock Festival, World-Pacific.

Ravi Shankar, Indias Master Musician in London, Odeon.

Ravi Shankar in New York, World-Pacific.

Ravi Shankar in San Francisco, World-Pacific.

Ravi Shankar, Portrait of Genius, World-Pacific.

Ravi Shankar, Sitar, Odeon.

Ravi Shankars Festival From India, Dark Horse/A&M.

Shankar: Concerto #1 for Sitar and Orchestra, Angel.

Shankar: Concerto #2for Sitar and OrchestraGarland of Ragas, Angel.

Shankar Family and Friends, Dark Horse/A&M.

Six Ragas, Capitol.

The Song of God, Bhagavad Gita (narration by Shankar), World-Pacific.

Songs From the Hills and Dhun, World-Pacific.

The Sounds of India: Ravi Shankar, Columbia.

Chappaqua (soundtrack), Columbia.

Charlie (soundtrack), World-Pacific.

Raga (soundtrack), Apple.

Theme From Pather Panchali and Gat Kerwani, World-Pacific.

Three Ragas, World-Pacific.

Transmigration Macabre, Spark.

Two Raga Moods, Capitol.

Sources

Frets Magazine, November 1979.

Life, August 18, 1967.

Musical America, September 1982.

New York Times, December 27, 1968; January 5, 1972; December 14, 1974; November 12, 1979; March 16, 1980; September 13, 1985; April 24, 1987; December 24, 1990.

Pittsburgh Magazine, October 1984.

Time, June 14, 1968.

Twin Citian (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN), December 1967.

Washington Post, June 19, 1985.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from press releases, World-Pacific Records, 1967, and Private Music Records, 1989.

Christian Whitaker

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Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar

Perhaps the best known Indian musician, sitar player and composer Ravi Shankar (born 1920) is credited more than any other individual with introducing Indian musical traditions to the West and expanding those traditions to incorporate Western classical, popular music, and minimalist musical forms.

Already an established musician and composer in his homeland during the 1940s, Shankar gained international attention in the 1950s with his collaborations with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and, in the 1960s and 1970s, with his featured performances at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, the 1969 Woodstock Festival, and the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. His friendship with guitarist, songwriter, and producer George Harrison of the Beatles, which began in 1966, resulted in the introduction of traditional Indian instrumentation on several Beatles recordings. Harrison repaid the favor by lending his guitar playing and production to Shankar's albums Shankar Family & Friends and Festival of India. These recordings and his close association with the Beatles raised the Western youth culture's interest in Indian music. Shankar is also credited with influencing the jazz recordings of John and Alice Coltrane and the minimalist compositions of Phillip Glass, with whom Shankar collaborated on Passages. He has also composed music for flautist Jean Pierre Rampal, Japanese musician Hosan Yamamoto, and jazz musicians Bud Schank, John Handy, and Buddy Rich.

Early Years in Bengal and Paris

Born Robindra Shankar in West Bengal on April 7, 1920, Shankar was the youngest of four sons who survived childhood born to the Brahmin family of Pandit Shyam Shankar, a Sanskrit, Vedic, and philosophy scholar. The elder Shankar also served as a diwan, or legal minister serving the Maharaja (king) of Jhalawar in Rajasthan. The close relationship of Shankar's mother with the Maharani (queen) granted him access to private royal musical events, which exposed him to many of India's most famous performers of the day.

By the time he was ten, Shankar's older brother, Uday Shankar, established himself as a professional dancer in Europe with Anna Pavlova. After forming his own Indian dance company in Paris, Uday invited his mother and brothers to join him in 1930. The troupe toured throughout Europe, introducing the Shankars to European culture. Ravi Shankar became an accomplished dancer and contemplated making dance his profession. When virtuoso Indian musician Ustad Allauddin Khan joined the troupe for one year in 1935, however, Shankar's interest in becoming a musician was renewed.

Khan, called "Baba" by Shankar, began giving him sitar and voice lessons but became annoyed that the lessons seemed secondary to dancing. "Sometimes, he would become upset and grow angry when I was learning, because, although I was a good student, he felt that dance was uppermost in my thoughts," Shankar later noted. "It angered and hurt him that I should be 'wasting my musical talent' and living in glitter and luxury. Baba insisted that this was no way to learn music from him, not in these surroundings, and he swore I would never go through the discipline and master the technique of the sitar."

Shankar quit dancing in 1938 and returned to India to finish his Brahmin initiation, determined to master the sitar. After spending two months abstaining from worldly comforts and eating specially prepared foods, he traveled to Maihar in central India to seek more lessons from Khan. Khan conducted his school like an ashram, requiring his pupils to approach their instrument as a spiritual exercise and to honor him as their guru. Khan and Shankar became very close during the seven years that Shankar studied in Maihar. Shankar married Khan's daughter, Annapurna, in 1941, and they had a son, Shubho, in 1942. Khan's son, Ali Akbar Khan, became a world-renowned musician and a frequent collaborator and touring partner with Shankar.

National and International Fame

After completing his training with Khan, Shankar moved to Bombay, where he joined the Indian People's Theatre Association. He composed the music for the ballet India Immortal in 1945, and, in 1946, soundtrack music for the films Dharti Ke Lal and Neecha Nagar and wrote new music for India's national song "Sara Jahan Se Accha." In 1947, he celebrated India's independence by adapting the works of Nehru for the ballet Discovery of India.

In 1949, Shankar moved to Delhi to accept the director of music post at All-India Radio. He organized and composed music for Vadya Vrinda, the National Orchestra, which is credited with expanding the possibilities of Indian orchestral music. He also composed film scores for Satyajit Ray's acclaimed Apu trilogy.

In 1954, Shankar toured the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with the first Indian Cultural Delegation. He conducted a solo tour of Europe and America in 1956. After releasing two acclaimed albums, Ravi Shankar Plays Three Classical Ragas and India's Master Musician, in 1957, he toured Japan as leader of a cultural delegation and played at the UNESCO Music Festival in Paris in 1958.

Influenced Western Music

Recognition for Shankar's music increased in the 1960s, and he began seeking ways to integrate Indian music with Western musical forms. In 1962, he released the jazz-influenced album Improvisations with Bud Shank. He also instructed horn player Don Ellis and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane in Indian music, leading to Coltrane's modal experimentation on several groundbreaking jazz albums of the 1960s. Shankar also contributed his composition Rich a la Rakha to jazz drummer Buddy Rich and tabla player Alla Rakha.

In 1966, Shankar met and became friends with George Harrison, the guitarist of the Beatles. Harrison's interest in Eastern religions had led him to Indian music. Harrison, in turn, introduced the band's producer, George Martin, and the other Beatles to Indian music. The Beatles first employed a sitar accompaniment on the song "Norwegian Wood." Soon, other rock groups such as the Butterfield Blues Band and the Byrds were displaying Indian influences. Shankar's appearances at both the Monterey Pop and Woodstock festivals increased his popularity among Western youth. But Woodstock's audience mistakenly applauded him for tuning his instrument, and, with the exception of the Concert for Bangladesh, Shankar refused to perform at other pop music festivals. "After I went to Woodstock and one or two others, I thought may be I should not go anymore," he noted, adding, "It sort of hurts me to see people all stoned and doing silly things, things I couldn't imagine. And our music needs a bit of respect like any serious music—Bach, Mozart—so when I found that it was not possible, I thought it was better to keep away."

In 1971, Shankar won a Grammy Award for Best Album for the Concert for Bangladesh soundtrack, the same year he debuted his Concerto for Sitar with the London Symphony Orchestra, featuring Andre Previn and Shankar as soloists. In 1981, he performed a similar feat with conductor Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1974, Shankar toured the United States with Harrison. Ben Fong Torres reviewed a Seattle performance of Shankar's "Dispute and Violence:" "A sometimes loose, sometimes tight fusion of various forms of Eastern and Western music—folk, classical and spiritual Indian; rock, jazz and even big-band swing. … Shankar at the podium, arms flailing, index fingers dipping and pointing, took it all to a victorious, symphonic, last-stomp halt."

Harrison produced two of Shankar's albums in the first half of the 1970s and described his friend as "the godfather of world music." In 1978, Shankar collaborated with Japanese shakahachi player Hozan Yamamoto and koko player Susumii Miyashita on the album East Greets East. In 1982, he was named Artistic Director of the Asian Olympics held in Delhi and was nominated with George Fenton for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for the Richard Attenborough film Gandhi. He also served a six-year term from 1986 to 1992 in India's parliamentary upper chamber, the Rajya Sabha. His past experience as a dancer benefited him when he performed at the Kremlin in Moscow in the late 1980s, employing Bolshoi dancers alongside traditional Indian and contemporary electronic instrumentation. The recording of this performance, Ravi Shankar inside the Kremlin, is considered to be one of his best releases.

In 1989, he toured Europe and India with Zubin Mehta and the European Youth Orchestra. Shankar also composed and performed in a musical theater piece, Ghanashyam, in Britain in 1989 and India in 1991, and collaborated with Phillip Glass on Passages in 1990. Even into the new millenium, he continued to write, perform, and tour.

Books

Fong-Torres, Ben, editor, What's That Sound?, Rolling Stone Press, Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1976.

Online

"Pandit Ravi Shankar," David Philipson's Home Page,http://music.calarts.edu/~bansuri/ravi-shankar.html.

"Pandit Ravi Shankar," Top-Biography.com,http:www.topbiography.com/9138-Pandit%20Ravi%20Shankar/.

"Ravi Shankar," EyeNeer.com,http://www.eyeneer.com/Labels/Angel/Ravi.html.

"Ravi Shankar," AllMusic.com,http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll.

"Ravi Shankar," Suite101.com,http://www.Suite101.com/article.cfm/Indian-music-musicians/36834.

"Sitar Guru," The New Statesmen, April 24, 2000, http://www.findarticles.com/cf-0/m0FQP/4483-129/62213858/p2/article.jhtml?term=. □

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Shankar, Ravi

SHANKAR, Ravi



Composer. Nationality: Indian. Born: Benares, 7 April 1920. Education: Attended a French Catholic school, Paris, 1930–32; studied Kathak and Kathakali styles of classical Indian dance, Calcutta. Family: Married Annapurna Akbar, children: one son. Career: Musician and dancer with Uday Shankar Company of Hindu Dancers and Musicians in Paris, early 1930s, composer and performer on the sitar from 1939; 1945—first film as composer, Dharti Ke Lal; 1945–46—music director of communist party cultural group IPTA, Bombay; 1946–47—co-founder, Indian Renaissance Artists musical group; 1949—director of music, All India Radio External Services Division (with Home Service Division, 1952); 1954—beginning of international career: toured in U.S.S.R., and later tours in the United States and Europe; 1967—opened school of Indian classical music, Los Angeles; later opened school at Varanasi.


Films as Composer:

1945

Dharti Ke Lal (Abbas); Neecha Nagar (Anand)

1955

Pather Panchali (Father Panchali) (S. Ray)

1956

Aparajito (The Unvanquished) (S. Ray); Chairy Tale

1957

Parash Pathar (Ray); En djungelsaga (The Flute and the Arrow) (Sucksdorff)

1959

Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (S. Ray)

1960

Anuradha (Mukherjee)

1961

Kabuliwala (Sinha); Megh (U. Dutt)

1962

Godan

1964

Ghum Bhangaar Gaan (U. Dutt)

1965

Chappaqua (Rooks)

1968

Charly (Nelson)

1972

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Miller)

1977

Mira (Gulzar)

1982

Gandhi (Attenborough)

1986

Génésis (Sen)

Publications


By SHANKAR: books—

My Music, My Life, New York, 1968.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Way of Grace, Fairfield, 1996.


By SHANKAR: article—


Montage, July 1966.


On SHANKAR: article—


Current Biography 1968, New York, 1968.


* * *

Although Ravi Shankar composed small pieces on the sitar (a seven-stringed Indian instrument which he has made worldfamous) as background scores for some commercial Hindi films, and composed complete scores for two offbeat Hindi films in the mid-1940s, he did not come to be known as a film composer until Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali made a world sensation in 1955. Shankar composed the music after seeing only a few sequences at the request of Ray, a family friend, and recorded it in one session of 11 hours.

Although Shankar is a profound practitioner of Indian classical music on many types of instruments, his style is more fluid and innovative than most great Indian sitarists, such as Ustad Bilayet Khan who composed the score of Ray's musical film Jalsaghar. This is evident from his soul-stirring scores for the Apu trilogy, Gandhi, and Anuradha. In Pather Panchali, which remains his best film score, the sequence of the improvident father's return home with a sari for the dead daughter and the mother's breakdown in tears would not have been half as moving if it were not enhanced by a little-known string instrument, tar sanai. Similarly, the pathos of the sequence of Gandhi's offer of a cloth to an ill-clad woman bathing in Ganges would not have been so cathartic if accompanied by a rigid classical raga on any other instrument.

Shankar never took his film scores too seriously; they were mostly concessions to friends and admirers. Nor are his scores dramatic or cinematic enough to bring home a situation or a dialogue in a lighter vein. He is too sublime to condescend to "ridiculous" moments in a film, one of the reasons Ray did not use him beyond the Apu trilogy. Nevertheless, the fluidity of his style and improvisations had a free play on the soundtrack of the trilogy. According to him, Indian classical music can convey the entire gamut of human emotions and feelings in films if it is played with an admixture of folk music, "or each by itself." "It is wrong to say that Indian classical music cannot convey emotion." He is himself pleased with his scores for the trilogy and for two of Utpal Dutt's films. The "pure gold" in Ravi Shankar which, according to Yehudi Menuhin, drew American youth to him, also shone in his film scores, because in these casual playful pieces "there was a synthesis of the immediacy of expression, the spontaneity, truth, and integrity of action suited to the moment that is a form of honesty characteristic of both the innocent child and the great artist."

—Bibekananda Ray

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Shankar, Ravi

Ravi Shankar (Robindra Shankar Chowdhury), 1920–2012, Indian sitarist and composer, b. Varanasi. He was the first Indian instrumentalist to attain an international reputation and is credited with introducing traditional Indian music to the West. As a youth Shankar was a noted solo dancer with his brother Uday's Indian dance troupe in Paris, and he studied (1938–45) with the instrumentalist Ustad Allauddin Khan, whose daughter, Annapurna, he later married. Proficient on many instruments, Shankar became a virtuoso of the sitar, and in 1957 he made the first of several concert tours of the United States. In 1962 he founded the Kinnara School of Music in Mumbai. George Harrison of the Beatles studied (1965) sitar with Shankar, and the band's recordings began featuring the instrument. Other rock groups followed suit, and for a time the sitar was a rock instrument. As the foremost sitar player, Shankar was catapulted to fame. His 1967 concert tour of the United States was a great success, and he was invited to hold classes at U.S. colleges and universities.

From the 1980s on Shankar also explored the possibilities of merging Indian music with electronic synthesizer and emulator technology. Among Shankar's many compositions are the scores for the motion pictures Pather Panchali (1954), Charly (1968), and Gandhi (1982) as well as ballets and concerti for sitar and orchestra. He collaborated with such musicians as violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and also with composer Philip Glass on the electronic recording Passages (1990). Shankar also served (1986–92) in India's parliament. His daughter, Anoushka Shankar, 1981–, who studied with him, also is a virtuoso sitarist.

See his autobiographies (1969 and 1997); biography (2002) by A. Shankar (his daughter); D. Ghosh, ed., The Great Shankars: Uday, Ravi (1983); John Musilli, dir., Ravi Shankar and Friends (documentary, 1976).

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Shankar, Ravi

Shankar, Ravi (b Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 1920). Indian sitar-player and composer. Dir. of instr. ens., India Radio, 1949–56. Founder-dir., Kinnara Sch. of Mus., Bombay, 1962. Toured Europe and N. Amer. giving sitar recitals which led to awakening of interest in Indian mus. Wrote opera- ballet Ghanashyam (A Broken Branch) (1989), ballet scores, 2 concs. for sitar and orch. (1971, 1976), and film and TV mus. incl. Gandhi and Alice in Wonderland. Hon. KBE 2002.

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Shankar, Ravi

Shankar, Ravi (1920– ) Indian musician. He was responsible for popularizing the sitar and Indian music in general in the West. Shankar founded the National Orchestra of India and was music director of All-India Radio (1948–56). He toured Europe and the USA extensively during the 1960s and 1970s.

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