Saturday 24 March 2018

Sitar virtuoso Shankar dies at 92

The Indian prime minister's office confirmed called the late musician Ravi Shankar a 'national treasure' (AP)
The Indian prime minister's office confirmed called the late musician Ravi Shankar a 'national treasure' (AP)

Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar has died at the age of 92.

The prime minister's office confirmed Shankar's death and called him a "national treasure".

Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers in the West discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music over an eight-decade career.

He was a hippie musical icon of the 1960s who played Woodstock and rubbed shoulders with The Beatles. George Harrison labelled him "the godfather of world music".

He also pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh. To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.

Shankar collaborated with Harrison, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane as he worked to bridge the musical gap between West and East.

Describing an early Shankar tour in 1957, Time magazine said "US audiences were receptive but occasionally puzzled".

His close relationship with Harrison shot Shankar to global stardom in the 1960s. Harrison had grown fascinated with the sitar. He played the instrument, with a Western tuning, on the song Norwegian Wood, but soon sought out Shankar, already a musical icon in India, to teach him to play it properly. The pair spent weeks together, starting the lessons at Harrison's house in England and then moving to a houseboat in Kashmir and later to California.

Gaining confidence with the complex instrument, Harrison recorded the Indian-inspired song Within You Without You on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, helping spark the raga-rock phase of 60s music and drawing increasing attention to Shankar and his work.

Shankar's popularity exploded and he found himself playing on bills with some of the leading rock musicians of the era. He played a four-hour set at the Monterey Pop Festival and the opening day of Woodstock.

Press Association

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