Ravi Shankar

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Ravi Shankar (1969)

Ravi Shankar ( Bengali রবি শংকর Rabi Śaṃkar; born April 7, 1920 in Varanasi ; † December 11, 2012 in San Diego ; real name Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury) was an Indian musician and composer who played the plucked sitar .

Shankar spent his youth touring Europe and India with his brother Uday Shankar's dance group . In 1938 he gave up dancing to learn to play the sitar under court musician Allauddin Khan. After completing his apprenticeship in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, writing the music for the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray , and was music director of All India Radio New Delhi from 1949 to 1956 .

In 1956 he began touring Europe and America, where he increased the reputation of Indian classical music in the 1960s through teaching, performing and through contact with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison of the Beatles . Shankar explored western music by writing instrumental concertos for sitar and orchestra and toured worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1986 to 1992 he was an appointed member of the Rajya Sabha , the upper house of the Indian Parliament. Shankar was awarded India's highest civilian medal, the Bharat Ratna , in 1999 and was the recipient of four Grammy Awards . He continued to perform in the 2000s, often with his daughter Anoushka . Hans Neuhoff described Shankar in The Music in Past and Present (2006) as the most famous contemporary Indian musician .


Shankar was born in Varanasi in 1920 into a wealthy and conservative Brahmin family from Bengal, the youngest of seven brothers. Shankar's Bengali maiden name was Rabindra Shankar Chowdhury. His father, Shyam Shankar, was an administrator for the Maharaja of Jhalawar and used the Hindi spelling of the family name from which he removed the last part. Shyam was married to Shankar's mother, Hemangini Devi, but later practiced as a lawyer in London. There he married a second time while Hemangini was raising Rabindra in Varanasi. He didn't meet his son until he was eight years old. Shankar shortened the Hindi version of his first name, Ravindra, to Ravi, for "sun".

After spending the first decade of his life in Varanasi, Shankar traveled to Paris with his brother Uday Shankar's dance troupe . At the age of 13 he was a member of the group, accompanied the other members on tours and learned to dance and play various Indian instruments. Uday's dance group toured Europe and America in the early to mid-1930s. Shankar learned French, discovered Western classical music, jazz and cinema, and became generally familiar with Western culture. Shankar heard the senior musician of the Maihar court , Allauddin Khan , play at a music conference in Calcutta in December 1934 . Uday convinced the Maharaja of Maihar in 1935 to enable Khan to accompany his group on a tour of Europe as a soloist. Shankar received sporadic tutors from Khan during the tour and Khan offered Shankar training to become a professional musician on the condition that he had to give up all tours and come to Maihar.


Training and work in India

Shankar's parents had passed away when he returned from the European tour. Tours to the West were made difficult by the political conflicts that were to lead to World War II . Shankar gave up his dance career in 1938 to travel to Maihar and study Indian classical music under Khan and to live with his family in the traditional Gurukul system. Khan was a strict teacher and Shankar practiced the sitar and surbahar , learned ragas and the musical styles of dhrupad , dhamar and khyal, and was taught the techniques of the instruments rudra vina , rubab and sursingar . He often met with Khan's children Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi . Shankar began performing publicly on the sitar in December 1939; his first appearance consisted of a jugalbandi (duet) with Ali Akbar Khan, who played the string instrument sarod .

Shankar graduated in 1944. He then moved to Mumbai and joined the Indian People's Theater Association , for which he composed music for ballets in 1945 and 1946. At the age of 25, Shankar composed the music for the famous song "Sare Jahan Se Achcha". He began recording music for His Master's Voice India and worked as musical director for All India Radio (AIR) New Delhi from February 1949 to January 1956. Shankar founded and composed for the Indian National Orchestra at AIR; his compositions experimented with a mixture of western instruments and classical Indian instrumentation. From the mid-1950s he composed the music for the internationally recognized Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray .

International career 1956–1969

Tabla player Alla Rakha , a frequent musical accompanist of Shankar, 1988

VK Narayana Menon, Director of AIR Delhi, introduced Shankar and Western violinist Yehudi Menuhin on his first visit to India in 1952. Shankar had performed as part of a cultural delegation in the Soviet Union in 1954 , and Menuhin invited Shankar to perform in New York City in 1955 as part of an Indian classical music demonstration sponsored by the Ford Foundation . Shankar canceled his participation because of problems in his marriage, but recommended that Ali Akbar Khan play in his place. Khan reluctantly agreed and performed with tabla player Chatur Lal at the Museum of Modern Art ; he would later become the first Indian classical musician to appear on American television and record a full raga for Angel Records .

Shankar heard the positive reactions to Khan's play and he resigned from AIR in 1956 to tour the United Kingdom , Germany and the United States . He played for smaller audiences, taught about Indian music, including ragas from the South Indian carnatic music , and recorded his first record Three Ragas in London, which was released in 1956. In 1958, Shankar attended the United Nations tenth anniversary celebrations and the UNESCO Festival in Paris. Since 1961 he toured Europe, the United States and Australia and became the first Indian to compose music for non-Indian films. Chatur Lal accompanied Shankar on the tabla until 1962, when Alla Rakha took his role. Shankar founded the Kinnara School of Music in Mumbai in 1962.

Shankar befriended Richard Bock, founder of World Pacific Records , during his first American tour and recorded most of his albums for Bock's label in the 1950s and 1960s. The Byrds made recordings in the same studio and heard Shankar's music there, which led them to incorporate some of their elements into their own music, which introduced their friend George Harrison of the Beatles to the genre. Harrison was interested in Indian classical music, bought a sitar and used it to record the song " Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) ". This resulted in Indian music being used by other musicians and created the raga rock current.

Harrison met Shankar in London in 1966 and visited India for six weeks to study sitar under Shankar in Srinagar . During the visit, Howard Worth filmed a documentary on Shankar called Raga and released it in 1971. Shankar's association with Harrison increased his notoriety considerably, and Allmusic's Ken Hunt would later declare that by 1966 Shankar had become "the most famous Indian musician on the planet". In 1967 Shankar performed at the Monterey Pop Festival and won a Grammy Award for best chamber music performance for West Meets East , a joint effort with Yehudi Menuhin. That same year, the Beatles won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band , which included " Within You Without You, " by Harrison, a song influenced by Indian classical music. Shankar opened a branch in the May 1967 Kinnara School of Music in Los Angeles ( California ) and published in 1968 an autobiography, My Music, My Life (dt. "My Music, My Life"). He performed at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969 and found that he hated the event. In the 1970s, Shankar distanced himself from the hippie movement.

International career 1970–2012

George Harrison, United States President Gerald Ford, and Ravi Shankar in the Oval Office on December 13, 1974
Shankar in
Delhi in March 2009

In October 1970, Shankar became chairman of the Indian Music Department of the California Institute of the Arts , having previously held positions at City College of New York , the University of California, Los Angeles , and as a visiting professor at other colleges and universities including the Ali Akbar College of Music had taught. In late 1970 the London Symphony Orchestra invited Shankar to compose an instrumental concerto with sitar ; Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra was performed with André Previn as conductor and Shankar on sitar . In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Hans Neuhoff criticized the orchestra's commitment to this concert as "amateurish". Together with George Harrison, Shankar organized the concert for Bangladesh, which took place on August 1, 1971 in New York's Madison Square Garden . At the end of the year a recording consisting of three LPs was released. The Concert for Bangladesh became one of the best-selling musical albums featuring Indian music and was named "Album of the Year" at the 15th Grammy Awards ceremony .

Shankar and Harrison worked together again during the 1970s, recording Shankar Family and Friends in 1974 and touring North America to mixed reviews after Shankar had previously toured Europe. The exhausting tour of North America weakened Shankar and he suffered a heart attack in Chicago in September 1974, which forced him to cancel part of the tour. In his absence, Shankar's sister-in-law, the singer Lakshmi Shankar , led the touring orchestra. The tour band visited the White House at the invitation of John Gardner Ford, son of US President Gerald Ford . Shankar toured and taught for the remainder of the 1970s and 1980s, and released his second instrumental concerto, Raga Mala , conducted by Zubin Mehta , in 1981. Shankar was nominated for an Oscar for Best Score for his work on Gandhi in 1982, lost but John Williams ' ET was a member of the Rajya Sabha , the upper house of the Indian Parliament , from May 12, 1986 to May 11, 1992, after being appointed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi . Shankar composed the dance drama Ghanashyam in 1989. His liberal views on musical collaboration led him to release the album Passages in 1990 with the contemporary composer Philip Glass .

Shankar underwent angioplasty for heart problems in 1992 , after which George Harrison participated in several of Shankar's projects. Because of the positive response Shankar's career compilation In Celebration received in 1996, Shankar wrote a second autobiography, Raga Mala , with Harrison as an editor. Shankar played 25 to 40 concerts a year in the late 1990s. He taught his daughter Anoushka Shankar to play the sitar and became a Regent's Lecturer at the University of California, San Diego in 1997 . In the 2000s, Shankar won a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 and toured with Anoushka, who published a book about her father, Bapi: Love of My Life , in 2002 . Anoushka performed a composition by Shankar for the 2002 Harrison Memorial Concert Concert for George and Shankar himself wrote a third instrumental concerto for sitar and orchestra for Anoushka and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra . Shankar played at concerts around the world until shortly before his death, most recently in 2011 and 2012 in the USA and Europe.

Style and posts

Ravi Shankar at the Shiraz Art Festival in Iran in the 1970s

Shankar developed a style different from that of his contemporaries, incorporating influences from rhythmic practices of South Indian Carnatic music. His performances began with a solo in Alap , Jor and Jhala (introduction and playing with pulse and rapid pulse), influenced by the slow and serious Dhrupad style, followed by a section accompanied by tabla , in which compositions from the predominant Khyal style were played. Shankar often concluded his appearances with a piece inspired by the light classic Thumri style.

Shankar is considered to be one of the most important sitar players of the second half of the 20th century. He popularized playing the bass octave of the sitar for the alap section and became known for a style of playing with short, rapid deflections of the strings in the middle and higher pitches and for producing sound by striking and removing the main playing string. Narayana Menon of the New Grove Dictionary noted Shankar's penchant for rhythmic experimentation, including the use of unconventional rhythmic cycles. Hans Neuhoff from Music in Past and Present argued that Shankar's style of playing was not widely used and that he was surpassed by other sitar players in playing melodic passages. Shankar's interaction with Alla Rakha increased the appreciation for tabla playing in North Indian classical music. Shankar promoted the Jugalbandi duet concert form and introduced new ragas one, including Tilak Shyam , Nat Bhairav and Bairagi .


Shankar won the Silver Bear Special Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1957 for composing the music for the film Kabuliwala . He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Prize for 1962 and was declared a Fellow of the Academy for 1975. Shankar received the three highest civilian national honors India: the Padma Bhushan in 1967, the Padma Vibhushan in 1981 and the Bharat Ratna in 1999. He was awarded the Music Prize of the International Music Council of UNESCO awarded in 1975 and got four Grammy Awards , of which the Lifetime Achievement Award Shankar was awarded posthumously in 2013. Ravi Shankar was also nominated for an Oscar . Shankar has held honorary degrees from universities in India and the United States. He received the Madhya Pradesh Government's Kalidas Samman for 1987-88, the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 1991, the Ramon Magsaysay Prize in 1992, and the Polar Music Prize in 1998. Shankar has been an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1974 and received 1997 the Praemium Imperiale for Music from the Japan Art Association. The American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane named his son Ravi Coltrane after Shankar.

Family and personal

Shankar in 1988

Shankar married Allauddin Khan's daughter Annapurna Devi in 1941 . Their son Shubhendra Shankar was born in 1942. After breaking up with Annapurna, Shankar began dating the dancer Kamala Shastri in the late 1940s. An affair with Sue Jones, a New York concert producer, gave birth to Norah Jones in 1979. In 1981, Anoushka Shankar was born to Shankar and Sukanya Rajan, whom Shankar had known since the 1970s. After separating from Kamala Shastri in 1981, Shankar lived with Sue Jones until 1986 and married Sukanya Rajan in 1989.

Shubhendra "Shubho" Shankar often accompanied his father on tours. He could play the sitar and surbahar , but preferred not to pursue a solo career. He died in 1992. Norah Jones became a successful musician in the 2000s and won eight Grammy Awards in 2003. Anoushka Shankar was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album that same year.

Shankar was a Hindu and a vegetarian . He lived with Sukanya in Southern California . Ravi Shankar died on December 11, 2012 after a brief illness at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego .


Ravi Shankar started recording music in the 1950s.

  • Three Ragas (1956)
  • Improvisations (album) (1962)
  • India's Most Distinguished Musician (1962)
  • India's Master Musician (1963)
  • Exciting Music of (1963)
  • In London (1964)
  • Ragas & Talas (1964)
  • Portrait of Genius (1964)
  • Sound of the Sitar (1965)
  • Live at Monterey (1967)
  • In San Francisco (1967)
  • West Meets East (1967)
  • At the Monterey Pop Festival (1967)
  • The Exotic Sitar and Sarod (1967)
  • A Morning Raga / An Evening Raga (1968)
  • The Sounds of India (1968)
  • In New York (1968)
  • Woodstock Festival (1969)
  • The Concert for Bangladesh (1971)
  • Transmigration Macabre (Soundtrack) (1973)
  • Homage to Mahatma Gandhi (1981)
  • Raga-Mala (Sitar Concerto No. 2) (1982)
  • Pandit Ravi Shankar (1986)
  • Tana Mana (1987)
  • Inside The Kremlin (1988)
  • Passages with Philip Glass (1990)
  • Concert for Peace: Royal Albert Hall (1995)
  • Chants of India (1997)
  • Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra with André Previn (1999)
  • Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 (2001)
  • Between Two Worlds (2001)
  • Flowers of India (2007)
  • The Living Room Sessions Part 1 (2012)
  • In Hollywood 1971 (2016)


  • Ravi Shankar: My Music, My Life . Ed .: Simon & Schuster. 1968, ISBN 0-671-20113-1 .
  • Ravi Shankar: Learning Indian Music: A Systematic Approach . Ed .: Onomatopoeia. 1979, OCLC 21376688 .
  • Ravi Shankar: Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar . Ed .: Genesis Publications. 1997, ISBN 0-904351-46-7 .


Abbreviation Full title
Brockhaus Brockhaus Enzyklopädie , 19th Ed. Edition, Volume 20, FA Brockhaus GmbH, 1993, ISBN 3-7653-1120-0 .
Ghosh, shankars Ghosh Dibyendu: The Great Shankars . Ed .: Agee Prakashani. December 1983, OCLC 15483971 .
Lavezzoli, Dawn Peter Lavezzoli: The Dawn of Indian Music in the West . Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006, ISBN 0-8264-1815-5 .
Massey, India Music Reginald Massey: The Music of India . Abhinav Publications, 1996, ISBN 81-7017-332-9 .
Menon, New Grove Narayana Menon: Stanley Sadie (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians , 1st Ed. Edition, Volume 17, Macmillan, London 1995, ISBN 1-56159-174-2 .
Neuhoff, history Hans Neuhoff : Shankar, Ravi. In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present . 2nd edition, Volume 15, Bärenreiter, 2006, ISBN 3-7618-1122-5
Conductor, Liverpool Nicholas Schaffner: The Boys from Liverpool: John, Paul, George, Ringo . Taylor and Francis, 1980, ISBN 0-416-30661-6 .
Sharma, Famous Indians Vishwamitra Sharma: Famous Indians of the 20th Century . Pustak Mahal, 2007, ISBN 81-223-0829-5 .
Slawek, New Grove Stephen Slawek: Stanley Sadie (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians , 2nd Ed .. Edition, Volume 23, Macmillan, London 2001, ISBN 0-333-60800-3 .

Web links

Commons : Ravi Shankar  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  2. a b c d Neuhoff, Geschichte, pp. 672–673.
  3. a b c Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 48
  4. a b c d e Ken Hunt: Ravi Shankar - Biography , Allmusic. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  5. a b c d Massey, India Music , p. 159
  6. ^ Ghosh, Shankars , p. 7
  7. a b c d e f g h i Slawek, New Grove , pp. 202-203
  8. ^ Ghosh, Shankars , p. 55
  9. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 50
  10. a b Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 51
  11. a b Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 52
  12. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 53
  13. a b c d e f Ghosh, Shankars , p. 57
  14. Sharma, Famous Indians , pp. 163-164
  15. a b c Arunabha Deb: Ravi Shankar: 10 interesting facts . Mint . February 26, 2009. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  16. ^ Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 56
  17. ^ Richard Schickel: The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959) , TIME . February 12, 2005. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  18. ^ Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 47
  19. Lavezzoli, Dawn , pp. 57-59
  20. a b c Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 61
  21. a b c Brockhaus , p. 199
  22. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 62
  23. ^ Schaffner, Liverpool , p. 64
  24. a b c d e Philip Glass : George Harrison, World-Music Catalyst And Great-Souled Man; Open to the Influence Of Unfamiliar Cultures , The New York Times . December 9, 2001. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  25. a b Allan Kozinn : George Harrison, "Quiet Beatle" And Lead Guitarist, this at 58 , The New York Times . December 1, 2001. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  26. ^ Howard Thompson: Screen: Ravi Shankar; 'Raga,' a Documentary, at Carnegie Cinema , The New York Times . November 24, 1971. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  27. a b c d e Grammy Award Results for Ravi Shankar . National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  28. a b c Overview Ravi Shankar concerts. Accessed January 2018
  29. Ghosh, Shankars , p. 56
  30. a b Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 66
  31. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 221
  32. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 195
  33. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 196
  34. Adam Rogers: Where Are They Now? , Newsweek . August 8, 1994. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  35. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 222
  36. ^ A b Sean Piccoli: Ravi Shankar remains true to his Eastern musical ethos , South Florida Sun-Sentinel . April 19, 2005. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  37. 'Rajya Sabha Members' / Biographical Sketches 1952 - 2003 (PDF; 180 kB) Rajya Sabha. January 6, 2004. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  38. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 197
  39. Shankar advances her music , The Washington Times . November 16, 1999. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  40. Lavezzoli, Dawn , p. 411
  41. Michael Idato: Concert for George , The Sydney Morning Herald . April 9, 2004. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  42. History of performances at Carnegie Hall  ( page no longer available , search web archives ). Retrieved January 2018@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / launch.carnegiehall.org
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  44. Archive> Annual Archives> 1957> Prize Winners . Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  45. List of Awardees of the SNA . Accessed January 2018
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  47. राष्ट्रीय कालिदास सम्मान (Rashtriya Kalidas Samman) ( Hindi ) Department of Public Relations of Madhya Pradesh. 2006. Archived from the original on July 25, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  48. ^ Ravi Shankar - The 2nd Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes 1991 . Asian Month. 2009. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  49. ^ Citation for Ravi Shankar . Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  50. ^ Lawrence van Gelder: Footlights , The New York Times . May 14, 1998. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  51. Honorary Members: Ravi Shankar. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 22, 2019 .
  52. Peter Watrous: Pop Review; Just Music, No Oedipal Problems , The New York Times . June 16, 1998. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  53. Hard to say no to free love: Ravi Shankar . In: Press Trust of India . Rediff.com. May 13, 2003. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  54. Kristina Lindgren: Shubho Shankar Dies After Long Illness at 50 , Los Angeles Times . September 21, 1992. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  55. Bijoy Venugopal: Norah's night at the Grammys , Rediff.com. February 24, 2003. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  56. Lavina Melwani: In Her Father's Footsteps , Rediff.com. December 24, 1999. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  57. ^ Signing up for the veg revolution , Screen . December 8, 2000. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  58. India sitar maestro Ravi Shankar dies BBC News December 12, 2012