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Published: 2012/12/12
by Kiran Herbert

Ravi Shankar: 1920-2012

The Shankars with George and Olivia Harrison. Photo via Ravi Shankar’s homepage

Seminal sitar player and composer Ravi Shankar has died. He was 92.

Born on April 7, 1920 in the holy city of Varanasi, India, Pandit Ravi Shankar is perhaps the best-known Indian musician. He is celebrated both in India and in the West, where he introduced the sitar and Indian music through his combination of talents as a performer, composer, teacher and writer.

After flirting briefly with dance early in life, Shankar went on to study for years under his guru Baba Allaudin Khan, which brought him well-deserved acclaim throughout India, mostly for the programs he wrote for films and ballets. A multifaceted talent by any means, Shankar went on to work in Radio, and eventually began expanding his celebrity and performing outside of India.

Made most famous for his influence on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and their experiments with a contemporary style of Sitar playing, Ravi Shankar was an acclaimed musician long before he played the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock and became associated with the transcendental, drug-fueled 60’s. He has won Grammy’s, played Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Kennedy Center in Washington, and collaborated with jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.

Shankar epitomized the East meets West musical collaborations that have become the norm today—Geroge Harrison famously called him the “godfather of world music”—and worked in such diverse roles as a composer along side Philip Glass and a member of India’s parliament.

Shankar died in San Diego, after witnessing and contributing to a near century of musical exploration and growth. Shankar has been in ill health for some time and died after undergoing surgery. His wife Sukanya Rajan, and his daughters Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar—a Grammy winning singer and sitar virtuoso respectively—survive him.

Click here to watch additional clips featuring Shakar, his daughter Anoushka and Harrison.

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