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All things must pass

December 14, 2012

Famous sitarist — I daresay the only famous sitarist (putting him somewhat above Zamfir in the pantheon) — Ravi Shankar has passed on at the ripe old age of 92.

Shankar gave his first concert in 1939, and the following year began giving recitals with Khan’s son Ali Akbar Khan, the sarodist, on All India Radio. He first made an impression in his own right with scores written in Mumbai for two notable Indian films of 1946, Dharti ke Lal (Children of the Earth) and Neecha Nagar (The City Below), and composed for the Indian People’s Theatre Association. In addition to an arduous performing schedule, he composed the music for the films comprising Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (1955-59). He also composed a concerto (1971), which he performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by André Previn. Shankar’s initial exploration of the possibilities of combining jazz and Indian classical music led to the album Improvisations (1961). He went on to teach Indian music to the jazz musicians John Coltrane and Don Ellis, and for the drummer Buddy Rich and tabla player Alla Rakha he composed Rich à la Rakha (1968).

His first meeting with George Harrison and Paul McCartney of the Beatles came in 1966, at a friend’s house in London. Harrison took up the sitar and later that year went to India for a period of intensive tuition. From this partnership came Shankar Family & Friends (1974). Performances at the great pop festivals of the time – Monterey, California, in 1967; Woodstock in 1969; and Concert for Bangladesh, New York, in 1971 – brought Shankar even more firmly into the west’s popular gaze and saw him established as a pioneer of crossover sounds.

You have to give the dude credit. It ain’t easy to become world-renowned as a player of the sitar. And he hung out with George Harrison a lot, and to the extent I have a favorite Beatle, he’s it. So rest in peace Mr. Shankar.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 15, 2012 2:31 pm

    I didn’t know he died! RIP Ravi Shankar.

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