Pandit Ravi Shankar (7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012) was an Indian musician, sitar player, composer, and founder of the National Orchestra of India.
He was born on 7 April 1920, in India. His father, Shyam Shankar Chowdhury, was a Middle Temple barrister and scholar. He attended Bengalitola High School in Benares from 1927 to 1928. When he was 10, he went to Paris with a dance group of his brother, choreographer Uday Shankar. He became a member of the group at 13; he went on tours with its members and learned to play various Indian instruments.
After giving up dancing at 18, Shankar studied the sitar for seven years under Ustad Allauddin Khan.
In December 1939, He debuted on the sitar performing a jugalbandi (duet) with sitar master Ali Akbar Khan.
After completing his training, he moved to Mumbai and joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association, where he composed music for ballets in 1945 and 1946.
He began a series of European and American tours shortly after serving as music director of All-India Radio from 1948 to 1956. He re-composed the music for the hit song “Sare Jahan Se Achcha” when he was 25.
During his long career, Shankar turned into the world’s best-known exponent of Hindustani classical music. He recorded dozens of successful albums and performed with India’s most celebrated percussionists. Shankar composed the film scores for the Indian director Satyajit Ray’s famous Apu trilogy (1955–59). Godaan and Anuradha were two Hindi movies he was the music director for.
He founded the Kinnara School of Music in Mumbai, in 1962, and then founded a second Kinnara School in Los Angeles in 1967; both schools closed a few years later when he got disenchanted with institutional education.
His concert appearances with Yehudi Menuhin in the 1960s, and his association with lead guitarist George Harrison of the wildly popular British group The Beatles helped bring Indian music to the West. John Coltrane and Philip Glass, with whom he collaborated on the album Passages (1990), were among the artists who were influenced by his compositional style. His participation in traditional Indian music and Indian-inspired Western music is especially impressive.
He’s mostly known for his concerti for sitar and orchestra, especially Raga-Mala (“Garland of Ragas”).
He died on 11 December 2012, in San Diego, California, US.
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Award and Legacy
Pandit Ravi Shankar’s legacy continues to inspire generations of musicians, and his contributions to Indian classical music and cultural exchange will be remembered for years to come.
In 1999, he received the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of India. He also won the Padma Vibhushan, in 1981 and the Padma Bhushan, in 1967, the second and third-highest civilian award in India.
In 1982, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
He won Five Grammy Awards, in 1967: Best Chamber Music Performance for West Meets East (with Yehudi Menuhin), in 1973: Album of the Year for The Concert for Bangladesh (with George Harrison), in 2002: Best World Music Album for Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000, in 2013: Best World Music Album for The Living Room Sessions Pt. 1, Lifetime Achievement Award received at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
On 7 April 2016, Google celebrated Pandit Ravi Shankar’s 96th birthday with a doodle.