Pandit Ravi Shankar (1920-2012): The man who brought east and west together

Ravi shankar-Anoushka

Labelled the 'godfather' of world music, Ravi Shankar undertook an extraordinary journey from the banks of Ganges to the heart of the west mesmerising them with Indian ragas and partnering with musical greats like Beatles' George Harrison and Yehudi Menuhin.

Darling of the hippie movement in the 1960s, Shankar trained for seven years under Ustad Allauddin Khan and was known for his characteristic sitar sound with powerful bass notes.

Shankar, 92, whose health had been fragile for the past several years, died today at the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California after undergoing heart-valve replacement surgery on Thursday.

The Bharat Ratna awardee started as a dancer with the group of his brother Uday Shankar but gave it up in 1938 to learn sitar under Allauddin Khan.

During the tour of Uday's dance group in Europe and America in the early to mid-1930s, Shankar discovered Western classical music, jazz, and cinema, and became acquainted with Western customs.

The music doyen composed his first raga in 1945 and embarked on a prolific recording career.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he became the unofficial international ambassador for Indian music, enthralling audiences in the USSR, Japan, North America.

However, it was his association with Harisson that got him international stardom. In the 1970s, they collaborated on two albums and toured the USA together.

A Bengali Brahmin, Shankar was born Robindra Shankar on April 7, 1920 in Varanasi, the youngest of four brothers, and spent his first 10 years in relative poverty, brought up by his mother. He was almost eight before he met his father, a globe-trotting lawyer, philosopher, writer and former minister to the Maharajah of Jhalawar.

As a performer, composer and teacher, Shankar was an Indian classical artist of the highest rank, and he spearheaded the worldwide spread of Indian music and culture, said writer and editor Oliver Craske, who provided additional narrative for Shankar's autobiography 'Raga Mala'.

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