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Ravi Shankar 90th Birthday Tribute

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As Ravi Shankar’s 90th birthday rapidly approaches, we celebrate this master musician’s 70 year career, and his major influence on Eastern and Western music.

During the mid-60s, the highly publicised association between Ravi Shankar and the Beatles, and in particular George Harrison, sparked my interest in Eastern music. That fascination has continued and expanded to include
the music of other cultures and acts famed for their fusion of Eastern and Western music, including John McLauglin, Philip Glass, Ry Cooder, Shakti, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Anoushka Shankar, VM Bhatt, Trilok Gurtu, and Zakir Hussain. Ravi Shankar’s musical influences are spread far and wide, and he has enriched contemporary music like no other artist.

Biography

Ravi Shankar, the legendary sitarist and composer is India’s most esteemed musical Ambassador and a singular phenomenon in the classical music worlds of East and West. As a performer, composer, teacher and writer, he has done more for Indian music than any other musician. He is well known for his pioneering work in bringing Indian music to the West. This however, he did only after long years of dedicated study under his illustrious guru Baba Allaudin Khan and after making a name for himself in India.

Always ahead of his time, Ravi Shankar has written three concertos for sitar and orchestra, last one of which in 2008. He has also authored violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal, music for Hosan Yamamoto, master of the Shakuhachi and Musumi Miyashita - Koto virtuoso, and has collaborated with Phillip Glass (Passages). George Harrison produced and participated in two record albums, “Shankar Family & Friends” and “Festival of India” both composed by Ravi Shankar.

Ravi Shankar has also composed for ballets and films in India, Canada, Europe and the United States. The latter of which includes the films “Charly,” “Gandhi,” and the “Apu Trilogy.”

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In the period of the awakening of the younger generation in the mid 60’s, Ravi Shankar gave three memorable concerts - Monterey Pop Festival, Concert for Bangla Desh, and The Woodstock Festival.

Ravi Shankar is an honourary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a member of the United Nations International Rostrum of composers. He has received many awards and honours from his own country and from all over the world, including fourteen doctorates, the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam,Padma Bhushan of 1967, the Music Council UNESCO award 1975, the Magsaysay Award from Manila, two Grammy’s, the Fukuoka grand Prize from Japan, the Polar Music Prize of 1998, the Crystal award from Davos, with the title ‘Global Ambassador’ to name some. In 1986 Ravi Shankar was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of Parliament.

Deeply moved by the plight of more than eight million refugees who came to India during the Bangla Desh Freedom struggle from Pakistan, Ravi Shankar wanted to help in any way he could. He planned to arrange a concert to collect money for the refugees. He approached his dear friend George to help him raise money for this cause. This humanitarian concern from Ravi Shankar sowed the seed of the concept for the Concert for Bangla Desh. With the help of George Harrison, this concert became the first magnus effort in fund raising, paving the way for many others to do charity concerts.

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His recording “Tana Mana”, released on the private Music label in 1987, brought Mr. Shankar’s music into the “New age” with its unique method of combining traditional instruments with electronics.

The love and respect he commands both in India and in the West is unique in the annals of the history of music. In 1989, this remarkable musician celebrated his 50th year of live performance, and the city of Birmingham Touring Opera Company commissioned him to do a Music Theatre (Ghanashyam - a broken branch) which created history on the British arts scene.

Ravi Shankar has several disciples, many of which are now very succesful concert artists and composers.

Perhaps no greater tribute can be paid to this genius than the words of his colleagues:

“Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift and through him I have added a new dimension to my experience of music. To me, his genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of Mozart’s”
- Yehudi Menuhin

“Ravi Shankar is the Godfather of World Music”
- George Harrison

A Quote on Music - January 2009

“How does one put the spiritual significance of music on paper? Music transcends all languages and barriers and is the most beautiful communicative skill one can have. Music makes us all experience different emotions or the Navarasa as we call it. Different types of music, whether it is vocal or instrumental, Eastern or Western, Classical or Pop or folk from any part of the world can all be spiritual if it has the power to stir the soul of a person and transcend time for the moment. It makes one get goose-bumps in the body and mind and equates the highest mental orgasm and the release of grateful tears!”

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