Maestro Ravi Shankar 90 Not Out, A Celebration
NEW DELHI | JUL 03, 2010
Sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar was feted by diplomats, well
wishers and admirers who gathered in the capital to celebrate
the musician's birth year and share glimpses of his nine-decade-old
"Music is the soul of India. It has always been my life
as well," said the composer musician in a letter read
out at the event "Ravi Shankar, 90 not out" organised
by the Indo-American Friendship Association in association
with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations here late last
"As a young Indian in the 1950s it was a matter of pride
to see somebody like Panditji perform on the world stage and
reach out across to those like Yehudi Menuhin and the Beatles,"
said Maharaj Gaj Singh II of Jodhpur.
"We owe his contribution to the world of music,"
said Singh who studied at Oxford. Singh was joined by others
like German ambassador Thomas Matussek, French ambassador
Jerome Bonnafont, dancers Pandit Birju Maharaj and Sonal Mansingh
at the event chaired by Abid Hussain, fromer envoy to the
Born in Varanasi on April 7, 1920, Pandit Ravi Shankar began
performing at the age of 11 after being initiated into music
and dance a year earlier by his eldest brother, Uday Shankar.
As a young boy, Ravi Shankar toured Europe with his brother's
dance troupe and at the age of 18 he began to learn how to
play the sitar from his guru Baba Allauddin Khan.
After almost seven years of rigorous study in the ancient
gurukul system, Ravi Shankar started composing film music,
founded the Indian National Orchestra and worked as a music
director for All India Radio. In the 50s and 60s, he taught
and performed sitar concerts in the largest halls all over
Europe and the Americas popularizing ragas and other elements
of Indian classical music.
"There was no language barrier as I was very fluent in
English and also in French and I could explain our music and
the various intricacies of ragas and Talas", said Ravi
Shankar in his letter.
"Pandit Ravi Shankar was not only a great musician himself
but he transcended and took Indian music to the world and
became an icon to so many," said ICCR president Karan
Singh at the function here last evening.
The sitarist and composer had pioneered the tradition of experimenting
India's classical music fusion with western culture and performed
with western classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Beatles
star George Harrison.
"George Harrison became my student in the mid sixties,
which certainly opened up the biggest door in all the continents
for me. George was one whom I loved very much as he was so
deeply attracted to our music and the Vedic culture and traditions
of India," said Ravi Shankar.
"The passion of Panditji was an inspiration for everyone.
It has a delight to see how the expression of every note was
glimpsed in his eyes," said Kathak dancer Birju Maharaj
who came to Delhi in 1953 at the age of 14 years as a teacher
at the Sangeet Bharati and was a frequent visitor to Ravi
One of the first musicians to write sitar music in Indian
notations for western concertos, Pandit Ravi Shankar was nominated
to the Rajya Sabha in 1986. The musician was conferred the
Bharat Ratna, in 1999 and he also won three Grammy awards
and was given the Ramon Magsaysay award in 1992.
"I have loved many countries like France, England, and
Japan of which I have several fond memories, but I deeply
fell in love with the US from my first visit there in 1932
with Dada Uday. The variety of people from all over the world,
and their love for all types of music, dance, films, innovation,
creation, and the spirit of freedom attracted me the most.
"Though my first home is New Delhi and I am a citizen
of India, my other home is in Encinitas near San Diego, California,
which I love," said Ravi Shankar who added that he was
"an aspirant to live '101 all out!".
The function felicitating the musician culminated with a sitar
recital of a composition in Satyajit Ray's film Panther Panchali
by Ravi Shankar's disciple Shubhendra Rao with tabla accompaniment
by Delhi-based Akram Khan. It was folowed by a bharatnatyam
performance by Nehha Bhatnagar.
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