MUMBAI: It’s not often times that the world has the privilege to listen to a music maestro who can touch the heart, stir the soul and enliven our entire being. For as long as I can remember, each time I heard Pandit Ravi Shankar’s music float through my home, I could not help but be drawn to the sounds of the sitar.
So when the same world loses such a legend, the loss is felt very deeply. In a joint statement, his wife and daughter, Sukanya and Anoushka Shankar informed the world “It is with heavy hearts we write to inform you that Pandit Ravi Shankar, husband, father, and musical soul, passed away today.”
The legendary sitar maestro had been admitted to the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California last week after he complained of breathlessness. His health had been fragile in the last few years – he was suffering from upper-respiratory and heart issues.
In the joint statement, the family added “On Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away,” the joint statement said.
A Bharat Ratna in 1996, three Grammy awards, an Oscar nomination and an upcoming Grammy nomination – Pandit Ravi Shankar was not only the recipient of many such accolades, he was also a pioneer. He was responsible for taking Indian classical music to the West. It is no wonder he was often called the ‘Ambassador of Indian music’.
Though Pandit Ravi Shankar began to study the sitar under court musician Allauddin Khan in 1938, his career began only in 1944. He would compose music for Satyajit Ray and be a music director for All India Radio. In 1956, exposure to Europe and America spearheaded his career to the zenith. He collaborated with international artists like George Harrison of ‘The Beatles’, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. He essentially introduced Indian music to classical, jazz and rock lovers. George Harrison even called him “the godfather of world music”
His poor health in the last few years made it difficult for Pandit Ravi Shankar to tour and perform. But that did not stop him from performing with his daughter Anoushka Shankar in California on 4 November. “This, in what was to be his final public performance, was in fact billed as a celebration of his 10th decade of creating music,” the Ravi Shankar Foundation said.
Anoushka Shankar, a Grammy-nominated Indian sitar player and composer was born to his wife Sukanya Rajan in 1981. His second daughter, an American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress Norah Jones was born to Sue Jones in 1979. Sue Jones was his New York concert promoter.
While Anoushka was trained by Pandit Ravi Shankar as his heir on the sitar and even toured the world together, his relationship with Norah Jones was more complex. His estrangement from Sue Jones meant that he did not see his daughter for almost a decade. But a few years ago, they re-established contact.
Bollywood and known personalities from the political fraternity expressed their loss on social networking site, Twitter:
Kunal Kohli: Pandit Ravi Shankar. Another legend lost this year. Another era ends. We need to get inspired by these legends & create new eras.
Priyanka Chopra: The end of an era in Music.We have lost too many legends this year.. My condolences to the family..RIP Shri Pandit Ravi Shankar
Rajdeep Sardesai: The sitar just went silent. Pandit Ravi Shankar is no more.