RIP: Ravi Shankar, 1920-2012

Master musician Ravi Shankar died on Tuesday (December 11) at the age of 92. A statement on his website said he died in San Diego, near his Southern California home with his wife and a daughter by his side. The musician’s foundation issued a statement saying that he had suffered upper respiratory and heart problems and had undergone heart-valve replacement surgery last week.

Artists from George Harrison to John Coltrane, from Yehudi Menuhin to Philip Glass were profoundly influenced by the spiritual music that he conjured with his sitar. He was embraced by the rock world of the ’60s, performing at such landmark events as the Monterey Pop Festival and the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

He also pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh. To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.

His daughter Anoushka Shankar performed at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall back in 2005, and Ravi Shankar was booked to perform in concert there the following year, but the concert was cancelled.

So I was privileged to see Ravi Shankar in concert only once – back in 1999 at the intimate Calvin Theatre in Northampton. Here’s some of what I wrote:

“It was almost inaudible when it began, as quiet as the hum of an insect’s wings. Slowly, deliberately, decibel by decibel, the sound grew louder. The tempo grew faster, more frantic. Tension, emotion and drama built to a climax. It became a swirling, all-encompassing roar, something akin to jet plane at takeoff.

“Ravi Shankar was sitting in the spotlight, his sitar resting on his left foot as his arms tenderly embraced the instrument like a lover. Shankar, of course, is the master of the sitar. He is also an indefatigable composer and performer, a teacher, a writer and India’s most esteemed musical ambassador. For more than a half-century, he has been a bold pioneer, not only bringing the music of the East to the West, but also bridging the worlds of classical and pop music…”

GO HERE to read the full review…

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