Beatles sitar guru Ravi Shankar dies aged 92
Published 13/12/2012 | 05:00
Ravi Shankar (pictured), the composer and sitar player who befriended The Beatles and acted as bridge between Indian music and the West, has died in southern California. He was 92 and had recently undergone heart surgery.
India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, led tributes that flowed not just from around the world but from various fields – from classical music, pop, film, as well as politics.
"An era has passed away with Pandit Ravi Shankar. The nation joins me to pay tributes to his unsurpassable genius, his art and his humility," said Mr Singh. "He was national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage."
The family of the three-time Grammy award winner and recipient of India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, said he had undergone surgery last Thursday to have a heart valve repaired.
He had been in fragile health for several years and at his final concert last month, before a small audience at a university at Long Beach, he had to wear an oxygen mask. He died on Tuesday night with his family at his bedside.
The family said that while the surgery itself had been successful, the trauma of recovery had been too much for the increasingly frail musician. The night before surgery he had been nominated for yet another Grammy, this time for his most recent album, 'The Living Room Sessions, Part 1'.
While Shankar will be remembered as first-class performer of the sitar – an instrument that has at least 20 strings depending on its style – he will also be recognised for popularising Indian music in the West and elsewhere around the world through a series of ground-breaking collaborations.
An entire volume of popular music history could be dedicated to his relationship with The Beatles, and in particular with the late George Harrison, the guitarist who, under the patient tutelage of the maestro mastered at least enough of the basics of the sitar to play it on several tracks, perhaps most famously on 'Within You and Without You', from the 1967 album 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'.