Legendary Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar dies

Legendary sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar died on Wednesday morning IST in San Diego in the United States at the age of 92 years. Pandit Ravi Shankar was in the US with his family for a surgery.

A three-time Grammy award winner, Pandit Ravi Shankar was nominated for a Grammy award for 2013 too.

Ravi Shankar was born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury on April 7, 1920 in Varanasi. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha from 1986 to 1992. He was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1999.

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10 Comments
  1. Ritz 7 years ago

    RIP

    I want to say more but its not the right time 😛

  2. hithere 7 years ago

    RIP

  3. FS 7 years ago

    RIP

  4. cr7 7 years ago

    RIP.

    one of the reason he will always be someone special to bangladesh is “concert for bangladesh”. he was the main organizer for that concert. and that show mean a lot for bangladesh at that period of time .

  5. Ritz 7 years ago

    Now as the mourning should be over now, my two cents on him

    He was a good sitar player. And thats about it. Nothing like a stalwart in classical music domain. He didnt not contribute anything significant in classical music domain. He became popular overseas as he went on to do fusion music and his good looks kind of contributed to it. No doubt he was good in sitar too but one doesnt see the intelligence in ragas he played. He was kind of person who felt experimentation means fusion. Lacked the intelligence of say Vilayat Khan or a Rais Khan of say how to bring brilliance to a raaga, how to experiment in it.

    I dont also think he popularized indian music as some news channels claim. Fusion is a passing fad. It doesnt last for years. Its a passing phase. You club sitar with some other western instrument and do the fusion. Its Rahman kind of thinking. Its not music to me. Its experimentation just for sake of it and to please your ego that you are “creating” something.

    His major contribution to music was only film music which he gave. Apu Triology had amazing themes. Other than that I he was plain ordinary IMO. I know I am bit harsh but thats my honest view.

    Now Sujaat Khan also is praising him but that is just out of respect and how well mannered he was. Deep inside he also knows what was what.

    • Author
      sputnik 7 years ago

      I once heard a sitar album of his at a friends place and that was like more than ten years ago. I loved that album – dont remember the name though.

      However I do think he popularized or brought the sitar to the western audience because of his collaboration with The Beatles.

      Across the Universe – Beatles and Ravi Shankar

      https://youtube.com/watch?v=EV8PuW9pmBE

      Ravi Shankar’s interview about George Harrison

    • Baba Ji 7 years ago

      ritz – just read some of your comments on ss. very informative ones. Just another proof where knowledge of subject wins over verbose.

      • Ritz 7 years ago

        Thanks Baba. I couldnt even make out what he was trying to say when he brought in shakespere – the people just love to praise big names without really seeing / listening their work.

        • RAJ 7 years ago

          Agree here…also he was married to his guru Ustad Allaudin Khan’s daughter Annapurna( name changed after marriage) who was supposedly more talented than him..so his forced his way in to hee leaving music forever..Then he left her and re-married…Annapurna led a life of recluse after that…

          • Author
            sputnik 7 years ago

            LEGENDARY LOSS

            In the Hindustani classical music fraternity, Annapurna Devi’s genius is part of a growing mythology. The daughter of the great Ustad Allauddin Khan, the sister of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and the divorced wife of Pandit Ravi Shankar, she is considered to be one of the greatest living exponents of both the surbahar and the sitar.

            The tragedy is that her music is lost to the world. Four decades ago, following problems with Ravi Shankar, she took a vow never to perform in public. Since then she has lived as a virtual recluse, rarely stepping out of her Mumbai residence. She is 74, but has never made a recording. No outsider has seen her play in almost 50 years, except for George Harrison, who in the 1970s was allowed the rare opportunity of sitting through her daily riyaz, that too following a special request from the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Annapurna Devi’s virtuosity, however, is attested by the accomplishments of her students, among whom are some of the greatest musicians of this country — Nikhil Banerjee, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Nityanand Haldipur, Basant Kabra, Amit Bhattacharya, and Amit Roy.

            ANNAPURNA’S STORY
            Young Ali Akbar was practising his latest lesson on the sarod. His younger sister Annapurna was playing hopscotch outside their family house in Maihar, 160 miles outside Benares. It was sometime in the 1930s. “Bhaiya, Baba ne aisa nahin, aisa sikhaya,” said Annapurna, who stopped playing and started singing Baba’s lesson flawlessly. And she hadn’t even been given music lessons by Baba. Allauddin Khan had trained his elder daughter, but music had caused marital problems in her conservative Muslim husband’s house. Hence he was not going to make the same mistake with his younger daughter. “I was so involved in the music,” Annapurna recalls, “that I didn’t notice Baba returning and watching me. I was most afraid when I suddenly felt his presence.

            But instead of scolding me, Baba called me in his room. He perceived that I had a genuine interest in music, that I loved it and I could do it. This was the beginning of my taalim.” Her taalim had begun, as was compulsory for all students, with vocal Dhrupad training. Then, she was taught the sitar. One day, her father asked her if she would like to shift to the surbahar, a larger and more difficult cousin of the sitar, but ultimately a more rewarding instrument. As she recalls, “He said, ‘I want to teach my Guru’s vidya to you because you have no greed. To learn you need to have infinite patience and a calm mind. I feel that you can preserve my Guru’s gift because you love music. However, you will have to leave sitar, an instrument liked by the connoisseurs as well as the commoners. Only listeners who understand the depth of music or who intuitively feel music, on the other hand, will appreciate the surbahar. The commoner might throw tomatoes at you. So what is your decision?’ I was dumfounded. ‘I will do as per your aadesh,’ was my simple response.”

            Around this time, Uday Shankar’s younger brother, eighteen-year-old Robindra Shankar (he changed his name to Ravi Shankar around 1940), came to learn at Maihar. At that time, Annapurna was a shy thirteen-year-old and, in the words of Ravi Shankar, “very bright and quite attractive, with lovely eyes and a brighter complexion than Alubhai’s (Ali Akbar Khan).” Their marriage was not a love marriage. “I was brought up by Ma and Baba in an ashram-like atmosphere at Maihar. There was no question of my getting attracted to Panditji. Ours was an arranged marriage and not a love marriage,” Annapurna Devi says with finality.

            Pandit Ravi Shankar too writes in his latest autobiography, Raga Mala, “There was no love or romance or hanky-panky at all between Annapurna and myself, despite what many people thought at that time. I do not know how she truly felt about the match before marriage, although I was told that she had ‘agreed’.” And on the morning of May 15, 1941, Annapurna was converted to Hinduism and the same evening they were married according to Hindu rites. Connoisseurs and music critics believe that she is a more gifted musician than either Ravi Shankar or Ali Akbar. As Ustad Amir Khan would later point out, “Annapurna Devi is 80 per cent of Ustad Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar is 70 per cent and Ravi Shankar is about 40 per cent.” Ali Akbar himself agrees in his oft-quoted statement: “Put Ravi Shankar, Pannalal (Ghosh) and me on one side and put Annapurna on the other and yet her side of the scale will be heavier.”

            Annapurna claims this was what led to the discord in their marriage. Says she, “Whenever I performed, people appreciated my playing and I sensed that Panditji was not too happy about their response. I was not that fond of performing anyway so I stopped it and continued my sadhana.” It is no secret that it was this marriage that was the basis of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s popular film Abhimaan, where a famous singer (Amitabh Bachchan) and his shy wife (Jaya Bachchan) have problems in their marriage when her popularity soars above his. Mukherjee in fact, discussed the story with Annapurna Devi before he embarked on the film. However, while in the movie the couple gets back together to live happily ever after, in real life Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi’s marital discord got worse and they eventually divorced. To save her marriage, Annapurna Devi says she took a vow before an image of Baba and Goddess Shardama never to perform in public again. But even a sacrifice as great as this didn’t save her marriage.

            Ravi Shankar recalls the issue a little differently. In a recent television interview he said, “As long as we were married I used to force her to play along with me and give programmes… But after that she didn’t want to perform alone. She always wanted to sit with me. And after we separated she didn’t want to perform… She maybe doesn’t like to face the public or she is nervous or whatever but it is of her own will that she has stopped. This is very sad because she is a fantastic musician.”

            Madanlal Vyas, who was Ravi Shankar’s student and the music critic for The Navbharat Times for 36 years, gives another perspective. “After the concerts people used to surround Annapurna Devi more than him, which Panditji could not tolerate. He was no match for her. She is a genius. Even Baba, the unforgiving and uncompromising Guru called her the embodiment of Saraswati. What higher praise than this?”

            Unfortunately, her music is lost to the world. There are very few people who remember watching her in concert. There is only one recording of her playing in existence: a rare, private recording from one of their jugalbandi performances which was made from the speaker placed outside the door when the auditorium was filled. Apart from Ravi Shankar, and her current husband, Rooshi Pandya, the only person who has heard her play since she withdrew from public life is the Beatle George Harrison. The story goes that when he was here in the 1970s with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked them if she could do anything. Menuhin said he wanted to ask for something impossible — could Mrs Gandhi get Annapurna Devi to play for him? After much persuasion, a reluctant Annapurna Devi agreed, not to a special performance, but to allow them to sit in on her daily riyaz. On the appointed day, however, Menuhin had to rush back home on account of an illness in the family. Harrison thus became the lucky one to see her play.

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