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definitions - Ravi_Shankar

Ravi Shankar (n.)

1.Indian sitar player who popularized classical Indian music in the West (born in 1920)

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Ravi Shankar (n.)


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sitar player[Hyper.]

Ravi Shankar (n.)


Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar
An old man sits on a platform and holds a long-necked lute while looking to the side.
Shankar performs in Delhi in March 2009
Background information
Birth name Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury
Born (1920-04-07) 7 April 1920 (age 92)
Varanasi, United Provinces, Indian Empire
Genres Hindustani classical music
Occupations composer, musician
Instruments sitar
Years active 1939–present
Associated acts Uday Shankar, Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Lakshmi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhin, Chatur Lal, Alla Rakha, George Harrison, Anoushka Shankar, Beatles
Website RaviShankar.org

Ravi Shankar (Bengali: রবি শংকর; born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury on 7 April 1920), often referred to with the title Pandit, is an Indian musician and composer who plays the plucked string instrument sitar. He has been described as the most known contemporary Indian musician by Hans Neuhoff in Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart.[1]

Shankar was born in Varanasi and spent his youth touring Europe and India with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing in 1938 to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan. After finishing his studies in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, creating 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 to tour Europe and America playing Indian classical music and increased its popularity there in the 1960s through teaching, performance, and his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison of The Beatles. Shankar engaged Western music by writing concerti for sitar and orchestra and toured the world in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1986 to 1992 he served as a nominated member of the upper chamber of the Parliament of India. Shankar was awarded India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999, and received three Grammy Awards. He continues to perform in the 2000s, often with his daughter Anoushka.


  Early life

Shankar was born 7 April 1920 in Varanasi to a Bengali Brahmin family as the youngest of seven brothers.[2][3][4] Shankar's Bengali birth name was Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury.[2] His father, Shyam Shankar, an administrator for the Maharaja of Jhalawar, used the Sanskrit spelling of the family name and removed its last part.[2][5] Shyam was married to Shankar's mother Hemangini Devi, but later worked as a lawyer in London.[2] There he married a second time while Devi raised Shankar in Varanasi, and did not meet his son until he was eight years old.[2] Shankar shortened the Sanskrit version of his first name, Ravindra, to Ravi, for "sun".[2]

At the age of ten, after spending his first decade in Varanasi, Shankar went to Paris with the dance group of his brother, choreographer Uday Shankar.[6][7] By the age of 13 he had become a member of the group, accompanied its members on tour and learned to dance and play various Indian instruments.[3][4] Uday's dance group toured Europe and America in the early to mid-1930s and Shankar learned French, discovered Western classical music, jazz, and cinema, and became acquainted with Western customs.[8] Shankar heard the lead musician for the Maihar court, Allauddin Khan, in December 1934 at a music conference in Kolkata and Uday convinced the Maharaja of Maihar in 1935 to allow Khan to become his group's soloist for a tour of Europe.[8] Shankar was sporadically trained by Khan on tour, and Khan offered Shankar training to become a serious musician under the condition that he abandon touring and come to Maihar.[8]


  Training and work in India

Shankar's parents had died by the time he returned from the European tour, and touring the West had become difficult due to political conflicts that would lead to World War II.[9] Shankar gave up his dancing career in 1938 to go to Maihar and study Indian classical music as Khan's pupil, living with his family in the traditional gurukul system.[6] Khan was a rigorous teacher and Shankar had training on sitar and surbahar, learned ragas and the musical styles dhrupad, dhamar, and khyal, and was taught the techniques of the instruments rudra veena, rubab, and sursingar.[6][10] He often studied with Khan's children Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi.[9] Shankar began to perform publicly on sitar in December 1939 and his debut performance was a jugalbandi (duet) with Ali Akbar Khan, who played the string instrument sarod.[11]

Shankar completed his training in 1944.[3] Following his training, he moved to Mumbai and joined the Indian People's Theatre Association, for whom he composed music for ballets in 1945 and 1946.[3][12] Shankar recomposed the music for the popular song "Sare Jahan Se Achcha" at the age of 25.[13][14] He began to record music for HMV India and worked as a music director for All India Radio (AIR), New Delhi, from February 1949 to January 1956.[3] Shankar founded the Indian National Orchestra at AIR and composed for it; his compositions experimented with a combination of Western instruments and classical Indian instrumentation.[15] Beginning in the mid-1950s he composed the music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, which became internationally acclaimed.[4][16]

  International career 1956–1969

An old man sits cross-legged on the ground and rests his hands on two small drums.
  Tabla player Alla Rakha, who was a frequent accompanist of Shankar, in 1988

V. K. Narayana Menon, director of AIR Delhi, introduced the Western violinist Yehudi Menuhin to Shankar during Menuhin's first visit to India in 1952.[17] Shankar had performed as part of a cultural delegation in the Soviet Union in 1954 and Menuhin invited Shankar in 1955 to perform in New York City for a demonstration of Indian classical music, sponsored by the Ford Foundation.[18][19] Shankar declined to attend due to problems in his marriage, but recommended Ali Akbar Khan to play instead.[19] Khan reluctantly accepted and performed with tabla (percussion) player Chatur Lal in the Museum of Modern Art, and he later became the first Indian classical musician to perform on American television and record a full raga performance, for Angel Records.[20]

Shankar heard about the positive response Khan received and resigned from AIR in 1956 to tour the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States.[21] He played for smaller audiences and educated them about Indian music, incorporating ragas from the South Indian Carnatic music in his performances, and recorded his first LP album Three Ragas in London, released in 1956.[21] In 1958, Shankar participated in the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations and UNESCO music festival in Paris.[12] From 1961, he toured Europe, the United States, and Australia, and became the first Indian to compose music for non-Indian films.[12] Chatur Lal accompanied Shankar on tabla until 1962, when Alla Rakha assumed the role.[21] Shankar founded the Kinnara School of Music in Mumbai in 1962.[22]

Shankar befriended Richard Bock, founder of World Pacific Records, on his first American tour and recorded most of his albums in the 1950s and 1960s for Bock's label.[21] The Byrds recorded at the same studio and heard Shankar's music, which led them to incorporate some of its elements in theirs, introducing the genre to their friend George Harrison of The Beatles.[23] Harrison became interested in Indian classical music, bought a sitar and used it to record the song "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)".[24] This led to Indian music being used by other musicians and created the raga rock trend.[24]

Harrison met Shankar in London in 1966 and visited India for six weeks to study sitar under Shankar in Srinagar.[14][25][26] During the visit, a documentary film about Shankar named Raga was shot by Howard Worth, and released in 1971.[27] Shankar's association with Harrison greatly increased Shankar's popularity and Ken Hunt of Allmusic would state that Shankar had become "the most famous Indian musician on the planet" by 1966.[3][25] In 1967, he performed at the Monterey Pop Festival and won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance for West Meets East, a collaboration with Yehudi Menuhin.[25][28] The 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 that was influenced by Indian classical music.[26][28] Shankar opened a Western branch of the Kinnara School of Music in Los Angeles, California, in May 1967, and published an autobiography, My Music, My Life, in 1968.[12][22] He performed at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969, and found he disliked the venue.[25] In the 1970s Shankar distanced himself from the hippie movement.[29]

  International career 1970–present

  George Harrison, U.S. President Gerald Ford, and Ravi Shankar in the Oval Office in December 1974

In October 1970 Shankar became chair of the department of Indian music of the California Institute of the Arts after previously teaching at the City College of New York, the University of California, Los Angeles, and being guest lecturer at other colleges and universities, including the Ali Akbar College of Music.[12][30][31] In late 1970, the London Symphony Orchestra invited Shankar to compose a concerto with sitar; Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra was performed with André Previn as conductor and Shankar playing the sitar.[4][32] Hans Neuhoff of Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart has criticized the usage of the orchestra in this concert as "amateurish".[1] George Harrison organized the charity Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971, in which Shankar participated.[25] Interest in Indian music had decreased in the early 1970s, but the concert album became one of the best-selling recordings featuring it and won Shankar a second Grammy Award.[28][31]

During the 1970s, Shankar and Harrison worked together again, recording Shankar Family & Friends in 1973 and touring North America the following year to a mixed response after Shankar had toured Europe with the Harrison-sponsored Music Festival from India.[33] The demanding schedule weakened Shankar, and he suffered a heart attack in Chicago in November 1974, causing him to miss a portion of the tour.[34] In his absence, Shankar's sister-in-law, singer Lakshmi Shankar, conducted the touring orchestra.[34] The touring band visited the White House on invitation of John Gardner Ford, son of U.S. President Gerald Ford.[34] Shankar toured and taught for the remainder of the 1970s and the 1980s and released his second concerto, Raga Mala, conducted by Zubin Mehta, in 1981.[35][36] Shankar was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Music Score for his work on the 1982 movie Gandhi, but lost to John Williams' E.T.[37] He served as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper chamber of the Parliament of India, from 12 May 1986 to 11 May 1992, after being nominated by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.[14][38] Shankar composed the dance drama Ghanashyam in 1989.[22] His liberal views on musical cooperation led him to collaboration with contemporary composer Philip Glass, with whom he released an album, Passages, in 1990.[6]

Shankar underwent an angioplasty in 1992 due to heart problems, after which George Harrison involved himself in several of Shankar's projects.[39] Because of the positive response to Shankar's 1996 career compilation In Celebration, Shankar wrote a second autobiography, Raga Mala, with Harrison as editor.[39] He performed in between 25 and 40 concerts every year during the late 1990s.[6] Shankar taught his daughter Anoushka Shankar to play sitar and in 1997 became a Regent's Lecturer at University of California, San Diego.[40] In the 2000s, he won a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 and toured with Anoushka, who released a book about her father, Bapi: Love of My Life, in 2002.[28][41] Anoushka performed a composition by Shankar for the 2002 Harrison memorial Concert for George and Shankar wrote a third concerto for sitar and orchestra for Anoushka and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.[42][43] In June 2008, Shankar played what was billed as his last European concert,[29] but his 2011 tour includes dates in the United Kingdom.[44]

  Style and contributions

Ravi Shankar - Madhuvanti.ogg
  Shankar plays the raga Madhuvanti at the Shiraz Arts Festival in Iran in the 1970s

Shankar developed a style distinct from that of his contemporaries and incorporated influences from rhythm practices of Carnatic music.[6] His performances begin with solo alap, jor, and jhala (introduction and performances with pulse and rapid pulse) influenced by the slow and serious dhrupad genre, followed by a section with tabla accompaniment featuring compositions associated with the prevalent khyal style.[6] Shankar often closes his performances with a piece inspired by the light-classical thumri genre.[6]

Shankar has been considered one of the top sitar players of the second half of the 20th century.[1] He popularized performing on the bass octave of the sitar for the alap section and became known for a distinctive playing style in the middle and high registers that uses quick and short deviations of the playing string and his sound creation through stops and strikes on the main playing string.[1][6] Narayana Menon of The New Grove Dictionary noted Shankar's liking for rhythmic novelties, among them the use of unconventional rhythmic cycles.[45] Hans Neuhoff of Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart has argued that Shankar's playing style was not widely adopted and that he was surpassed by other sitar players in the performance of melodic passages.[1] Shankar's interplay with Alla Rakha improved appreciation for tabla playing in Hindustani classical music.[1] Shankar promoted the jugalbandi duet concert style and introduced new ragas, including Tilak Shyam, Nat Bhairav and Bairagi.[6]


Shankar won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Prize of the Jury at the 1957 Berlin International Film Festival for composing the music for the movie Kabuliwala.[46] He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 1962,[47] and was named a Fellow of the academy for 1975.[48] Shankar was awarded the three highest national civil honors of India: Padma Bhushan, in 1967, Padma Vibhushan, in 1981, and Bharat Ratna, in 1999.[49] He received the music award of the UNESCO International Music Council in 1975, three Grammy Awards, and was nominated for an Academy Award.[12][28][37] Shankar was awarded honorary degrees from universities in India and the United States.[12] He received the Kalidas Samman from the Government of Madhya Pradesh for 1987–88, the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 1991, the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1992, and the Polar Music Prize in 1998.[50][51][52][53] In 2001, Shankar was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Elizabeth II for his "services to music".[54] Shankar is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1997 received the Praemium Imperiale for music from the Japan Art Association.[6] The American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane named his son Ravi Coltrane after Shankar.[55]

  Personal life and family

A man sits cross-legged and holds a long-necked lute while looking to the side.
  Shankar in 1988

Shankar married Allauddin Khan's daughter Annapurna Devi in 1941 and a son, Shubhendra Shankar, was born in 1942.[10] Shankar separated from Devi during the 1940s and had a relationship with Kamala Shastri, a dancer, beginning in the late 1940s.[56] An affair with Sue Jones, a New York concert producer, led to the birth of Norah Jones in 1979.[56] In 1981, Anoushka Shankar was born to Shankar and Sukanya Rajan, whom Shankar had known since the 1970s.[56] After separating from Kamala Shastri in 1981, Shankar lived with Sue Jones until 1986. He married Sukanya Rajan in 1989.[56]

Shubhendra "Shubho" Shankar often accompanied his father on tours.[57] He could play the sitar and surbahar, but elected not to pursue a solo career and died in 1992.[57] Norah Jones became a successful musician in the 2000s, winning eight Grammy Awards in 2003.[58] Anoushka Shankar was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2003.[58]

Shankar is a Hindu and a vegetarian.[59][60] He lives with Sukanya in Encinitas, California.[61]




  1. ^ a b c d e f Neuhoff 2006, pp. 672–673
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lavezzoli 2006, p. 48
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hunt, Ken. "Ravi Shankar – Biography". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ravi-shankar-p3434/biography. Retrieved 15 July 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d Massey 1996, p. 159
  5. ^ Ghosh 1983, p. 7
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Slawek 2001, pp. 202–203
  7. ^ Ghosh 1983, p. 55
  8. ^ a b c Lavezzoli 2006, p. 50
  9. ^ a b Lavezzoli 2006, p. 51
  10. ^ a b Lavezzoli 2006, p. 52
  11. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 53
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Ghosh 1983, p. 57
  13. ^ Sharma 2007, pp. 163–164
  14. ^ a b c Deb, Arunabha (26 February 2009). "Ravi Shankar: 10 interesting facts". Mint. http://www.livemint.com/2009/02/26212701/Ravi-Shankar-10-interesting-f.html. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  15. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 56
  16. ^ Schickel, Richard (12 February 2005). "The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959)". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1953094_1953142_1953289,00.html. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  17. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 47
  18. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 57
  19. ^ a b Lavezzoli 2006, p. 58
  20. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, pp. 58–59
  21. ^ a b c d Lavezzoli 2006, p. 61
  22. ^ a b c Brockhaus, p. 199
  23. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 62
  24. ^ a b Schaffner 1980, p. 64
  25. ^ a b c d e Glass, Philip (9 December 2001). "George Harrison, World-Music Catalyst And Great-Souled Man; Open to the Influence Of Unfamiliar Cultures". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/09/arts/george-harrison-world-music-catalyst-great-souled-man-open-influence-unfamiliar.html?pagewanted=all. Retrieved 16 July 2009. 
  26. ^ a b Kozinn, Allan (1 December 2001). "George Harrison, 'Quiet Beatle' And Lead Guitarist, Dies at 58". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/01/arts/george-harrison-quiet-beatle-and-lead-guitarist-dies-at-58.html. Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  27. ^ Thompson, Howard (24 November 1971). "Screen: Ravi Shankar; ' Raga,' a Documentary, at Carnegie Cinema". The New York Times. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50810F93D591A7493C6AB178AD95F458785F9. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  28. ^ a b c d e "Past Winners Search". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. http://www.grammy.com/nominees/search?artist=Shankar&title=&year=All&genre=All. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  29. ^ a b O'Mahony, John (8 June 2008). "Ravi Shankar bids Europe adieu". The Taipei Times (UK). http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2008/06/08/2003414118. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  30. ^ Ghosh 1983, p. 56
  31. ^ a b Lavezzoli 2006, p. 66
  32. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 221
  33. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 195
  34. ^ a b c Lavezzoli 2006, p. 196
  35. ^ Rogers, Adam (8 August 1994). "Where Are They Now?". Newsweek. http://docs.newsbank.com/g/GooglePM/NWEC/lib00285,0EC05F4D76C65508.html. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  36. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 222
  37. ^ a b Piccoli, Sean (19 April 2005). "Ravi Shankar remains true to his Eastern musical ethos". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/premium/0286/0286-9117516.html. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  38. ^ "'Rajya Sabha Members'/Biographical Sketches 1952 – 2003" (PDF). Rajya Sabha. 6 January 2004. http://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/pre_member/1952_2003/r.pdf. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  39. ^ a b Lavezzoli 2006, p. 197
  40. ^ "Shankar advances her music". The Washington Times. 16 November 1999. http://docs.newsbank.com/g/GooglePM/WT/lib00179,0EB0F3E288AD65E1.html. Retrieved 4 November 2009. 
  41. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 411
  42. ^ Idato, Michael (9 April 2004). "Concert for George". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/08/1081326843156.html. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  43. ^ "Anoushka enthralls at New York show". The Hindu (India). 4 February 2009. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/009200902041040.htm. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  44. ^ Barnett, Laura (6 June 2011). "Portrait of the artist: Ravi Shankar, musician". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/jun/06/ravi-shankar-musician. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  45. ^ Menon 1995, p. 220
  46. ^ "Archive > Annual Archives > 1957 > Prize Winners". Berlin International Film Festival. http://www.berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/1957/03_preistr_ger_1957/03_Preistraeger_1957.html. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  47. ^ "SNA: List of Akademi Awardees – Instrumental – Sitar". Sangeet Natak Akademi. http://sangeetnatak.gov.in/sna/awardeeslist.htm#InstrumentalSitar. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  48. ^ "SNA: List of Akademi Fellows". Sangeet Natak Akademi. http://sangeetnatak.gov.in/sna/fellowslist.htm#1980. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  49. ^ "Padma Awards". Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. http://india.gov.in/myindia/advsearch_awards.php?start=0&award_year=&state=&field=3&p_name=Ravi&award=All. Retrieved 16 July 2009. 
  50. ^ "राष्ट्रीय कालिदास सम्मान [Rashtriya Kalidas Samman]" (in Hindi). Department of Public Relations of Madhya Pradesh. 2006. http://www.mpinfo.org/mpinfonew/hindi/award/kalidas.asp. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  51. ^ "Ravi Shankar – The 2nd Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes 1991". Asian Month. 2009. http://asianmonth.com/prize/english/winner/. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  52. ^ "Citation for Ravi Shankar". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Citation/CitationShankarRav.htm. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  53. ^ van Gelder, Lawrence (14 May 1998). "Footlights". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/14/books/footlights.html. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  54. ^ "Sir Ravi". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc.) 113 (19): 14. 12 May 2001. ISSN 0006-2510. http://books.google.com/?id=FikEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA14. 
  55. ^ Watrous, Peter (16 June 1998). "Pop Review; Just Music, No Oedipal Problems". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/06/16/arts/pop-review-just-music-no-oedipal-problems.html. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  56. ^ a b c d "Hard to say no to free love: Ravi Shankar". Press Trust of India. Rediff.com. 13 May 2003. http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/may/13ravi.htm. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  57. ^ a b Lindgren, Kristina (21 September 1992). "Shubho Shankar Dies After Long Illness at 50". Los Angeles Times. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/61210384.html?FMT=ABS. Retrieved 31 August 2009. 
  58. ^ a b Venugopal, Bijoy (24 February 2003). "Norah's night at the Grammys". Rediff.com. http://www.rediff.com/us/2003/feb/24grammy.htm. Retrieved 5 November 2009. 
  59. ^ Melwani, Lavina (24 December 1999). "In Her Father's Footsteps". Rediff.com. http://www.rediff.com/news/1999/dec/24us1.htm. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  60. ^ "Signing up for the veg revolution". Screen. 8 December 2000. http://www.screenindia.com/old/20001208/shtakes.htm. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  61. ^ Varga, George (10 April 2011). "At 91, Ravi Shankar seeks new musical vistas". signonsandiego.com. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/apr/10/91-ravi-shankar-seeks-new-musical-vistas/. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 


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