Pandit Ravi Shankar is a living legend who is a genius Sitar player. Born on 7th April, 1920 in Banaras, his family was a Bengali Brahmin family who named him Ravindra Shankar. Shyam Shankar, his father, was a barrister. He had an elder brother Uday Shankar who was a famous Indian classical dancer. In his younger years, Ravi played Sitar the dance troupe of Uday Shankar, especially with Anna Pavlova. In 1938, he studied under his guru, Allaudin Khan. The dedication and determination shows in the fact that Ravi Shankar's career span extends over six decades and has been recorded in the Guinness World Record as the longest international career. An account of his fascinating life history is given here as the biography of Pt. Ravi Shankar.
In the year 1939, Ravi Shankar gave his first public performance in
India. His formal training concluded in the year 1944 and he moved out
of Bombay. He then started a recording career with HMV's Indian
affiliate and began by composing scores for films and ballets. In the
50's he became the music director of All India Radio. It was during the
50's that he became famous in the world of music outside India. He
performed in Soviet Union (1953) and the West (1956). He has performed
in prestigious events like Edinburgh Festival and also at important
places like Royal Festival Hall, London.
In the year 1965, George Harrison, a member of the band The Beatles
began experimenting with the Sitar. Consequently, the two musicians met
and their interest in the Sitar made them really good friends. Ravi
Shankar's career got instant boost as he came to be known as Harrison's
mentor. He got many opportunities to showcase his skill as a classical
musician in events like Monterey Pop Festival, California (1967) along
with the tabla maestro Ustad Allah Rakha. Ravi Shankar also performed an
opening act during George Harrison's U.S tour in the year 1974. George
Harrison fondly calls him the Godfather of World Music.
Ravi Shankar has composed two symphony masterpieces for Sitar and
orchestra; Violin and Sitar composition for Yehudi Menuhin. He has also
composed music for flute maestro Jean Pierre Rampal, Japanese flute
player Hozan Yamamoto and Koto (Japanese stringed instrument) player
Musumi Miyashita. He has composed the musical score for movies like
Charly, Chappaqua, Apu Trilogy and Gandhi. He even got nominated for an
Academy Award for his composition in this movie. His recording named "Tana
Mana" (1987) skillfully infuses the traditional instruments with
electronics. He also composed the Sitar part in Philip Glass's
Ravi Shankar has two daughters who are talented musicians themselves.
Anuoshka Shankar is a famous Sitar player like her father and has won
many awards. She has her own recordings and also performs frequently
with her father. His other daughter is Norah Jones who is an acclaimed
singer in the international arena. She has won many Grammy awards and
her records sell like hot cakes. Ravi Shankar has really contributed to
not just Indian music but has also made sure that music lovers here get
to listen to world music as well.