Pandit Ravi Shankar was an Indian musician and composer, best known for popularizing the Indian classical instrument Sitar all over the world.
Date of Birth : April 7, 1920
Place of Birth : Varanasi
Birth Name : Rabindra Shankar Chowdhury
Date of Death : 11 December 2012
Place of Death: San Diego, California
Profession: Sitar player, composer, singer
Spouses: Annapurna Devi, Sukanya Rajan
Children: Shubhendra Shankar, Anoushka Shankar
Father: Shyam Shankar Chowdhury
Mother: Hemangini Devi
Siblings: Uday Shankar, Rajendra Shankar, Debendra Shankar, Bhupendra Shankar
Awards: Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Grammy Award
Pandit Ravi Shankar was an Indian musician and composer. He was best known for popularizing the Indian classical instrument Sitar all over the world. So if you want to become great musician you must know about Pandit Ravi Shankar. Shankar grew up studying music and toured as a member of his brother’s dance troupe.
After serving as the director of All-India Radio, he began to tour India and the United States. In the process, he collaborated with many notable musicians, including George Harrison and Philip Glass. He even collaborated with the famous band ‘The Beatles’, popularizing Sitar to a greater extent.
Childhood Pandit Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar was born into a Bengali family. His father Shyam Shankar Chowdhury left to London to work as a lawyer after serving as a local barrister under the British. Young Ravi Shankar was raised by his mother and had not met his father until he was eight years old.
In 1930, he moved to Paris to be part of a musical troupe and later joined his brother, Uday Shankar’s dance troupe. He toured with the troupe from the age of 10, and gave many memorable performances as a dancer. He was true musician and composer. You can also follow him to success in music career.
Pandit Ravi Shankar & Sitar
Ravi Shankar was introduced to Sitar much later in his life when he was 18 years old. It all began at a concert in Kolkata where he heard Amiya Kanti Bhattacharya play the classical instrument.
Moved by the performance, Shankar decided that he too, must learn Sitar under Bhattacharya’s guru, Ustad Inayat Khan. This is how Sitar came into his life and remained with him until he breathed his last.
Early Career and Association with AIR
After having learnt to play Sitar under his Guru, Ustad Inayat Khan, he went to Mumbai, where he worked for the Indian People’s Theatre Association. There he started composing music for ballets until 1946. He then went on to become the director of New Delhi radio station All-India Radio (AIR), a position he held until 1956.
During his time at the AIR, Shankar composed pieces for orchestra that mixed Sitar and other Indian instruments with classical Western instrumentation. Also during this period, he began performing and writing music with American-born violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
In 1954, Ravi Shankar gave a recital in the Soviet Union. In 1956, he debuted in the United States and Western Europe. Also helping his popularity was the score he wrote for the famous Indian film director, Satyajit Ray.
Already an ambassador of Indian music to the Western world, Shankar embraced this role to a much larger extent in the 1960s. That decade saw Shankar’s performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, which further elevated his fame.
The Difficult Phase
His association with the Beatles led to accusations that he was a hippie who promoted drug use. In fact, Shankar was intensely critical of the Marijuana addicts. Despite his affection for Harrison, it proved a difficult period for Shankar, who wasn’t keen on the rock music scene.
During the 1970s he distanced himself from his hippie associations and began to refocus on cementing his status as a classical Indian musician, but his friendship with Harrison endured.
Political Career is Pandit Ravi Sahnkar
For his great contribution to Indian music, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He served as a member of the Upper House of the Indian Parliament from 12 May 1986 to 11 May 1992.
Recomposing ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha’
The song ‘Saare Jahan Se Acchha’ was set to tune by Ravi Shankar. Written by Muhammad Iqbal in 1904, it had a more drawn-out tune until Shankar was asked to reset it in 1945. Many are unaware of this, including HMV, which attributes the tune as “traditional” in an album featuring patriotic songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
Throughout his career, Shankar received criticism for not being a classical purist from some famous Indian traditionalists. But Ravi Shankar tackled all the criticism gracefully and kept moving ahead on his musical journey.
Personal Life Pandit Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar married Annapurna Devi in 1941. In the subsequent year, their son and Ravi Shankar’s first child, Shubhendra Shankar, was born. During the late 1940s, Ravi Shankar had an affair with a dancer named Kamala Shastri and this proved fatal to his marriage which eventually ended.
In 1981, he broke his relationship with Kamala Shastri and started an affair with Sue Jones, a concert producer from New York. This relationship too ended in 1986. He then went on to marry Sukanya Rajan. His daughter, Anoushka Shankar, was born in 1981 out of this union.
In the year 1992, Ravi Shankar’s son Shubhendra Shankar died of pneumonia. Post his son’s death, Ravi Shankar became more spiritual and in his later years, gave up on non-veg food.
Death and Legacy
Ravi Shankar died on December 11, 2012 in San Diego, California, at the age of 92. The musician had reportedly suffered from upper respiratory and heart ailments and had undergone surgery to replace a heart valve in the days leading up to his death.
His last performance was with his daughter at the Terrace Theater in California. His daughter, Anoushka Shankar, is also a Sitar player and composer. The legacy of Ravi Shankar is now being carried forward by this talented musician.