San Diego, Dec 12: Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar passed away in San Diego on Tuesday, Dec 11. He was 92. He breathed his last at 4.30 pm Pacific Time. He was admitted to the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla last week after he complained of breathing problems. According to Pt Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka, he could not withstand surgery.
Ravi Shankar had suffered from "upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last Thursday". "Though the surgery was successful, recovery proved too difficult for the 92-year-old musician," his wife Sukanya said.
(See website for the maestro's life and work)
The legendary musician and composer, who was born to a Bengali Brahmin family in Varanasi on Apr 7, 1920, was India's musical ambassador and made a remarkable contribution in the classical music worlds of east and west. He was known for his pioneering work in reaching Indian music to the outside world. His original name was Rabindro Shounkar Chowdhury.
About the maestro:
Pandit Ravi Shankar was an active musician till the last years of his life and was one of the contenders for the next Grammys along with his daughter Anoushka Shankar, also a noted sitar player and composer. He also had a daughter, Norah Jones, from an extra-marital affair. Jones is a noted American singer-writer and actor. His son Subhendra Shankar, who often accompanied his father on tours, had passed away in 1992.
Pandit Ravi Shankar, who was always ahead of his time, had written three concertos for sitar and orchestra, the last one in 2008. He had made violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for French flautist Jean Pierre Rampal and also the likes of Hosan Yamamoto and Masumi Miyashita. George Harrison of The Beatles fame had produced and participated in two record albums composed by the sitar maestro. The two albums were "Shankar Family & Friends" and "Festival of India".
Ravi Shankar had also composed for ballets and films in India as well as abroad. The films for which he had worked are Charly, Gandhi and the Apu Trilogy. In the mid 1960s, Ravi Shankar gave three memorable concerts, namely, Monterey Pop Festival, Concert for Bangla Desh and The Woodstock Festival. The Concert for Bangla Desh was a special one for it was a humanitarian effort of the Pandit to raise money for the millions of refugees who had crossed over into India from the earstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during the freedom struggle of the early 1970s. He had taken the help of George Harrison and the concert became a pioneering effort in fund-raising charity concerts.
An honourary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the UN International Rostrum of composers, Ravi Sahnkar had received scores of awards and honours in both India and abroad. Some of the big awards that he had received during his lifetime are Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam, Padma Bhushan of 1967, the Music Council UNESCO award 1975, two Grammy's, the Fukuoka grand Prize from Japan, the Magsaysay Award from Manila and the Polar Music Prize of 1998.
In 1986, Ravi Shankar was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1986. In 1989, Ravi Shankar celebrated his 50th year of concerting and the Birmingham Touring Opera Company asked him to do a Music Theatre, which created a history in the British arts scene.
Harrison had once called Pandit Ravi Shankar as the Godfather of World Music.
Ravi Shankar had married Annapurna Devi, daughter of Sarod maestro Alauddin Khan, in 1941 and they had the son, Shubhendra. The two, however, got separated and in the late 1940s, Ravi Shankar had a relationship with Kamala Shastri, a dancer. They got separated in 1981. Later, he had an affair with Sue Jones, a New York concert producer. Shankar lived with Sue until 1986. In 1989, he married Sukanya Rajan.