Indian musician and composer who was one of the best-known exponents of the sitar in the second half of the 20th century as a composer of Hindustani classical music Ravi Shankar died on the 11th of December 2012.
Born on 7 April 1920 in Varanasi, India, to a Bengali family, as the youngest of seven brothers, his father, Shyam Shankar, was a Middle Temple barrister and scholar from East Bengal (now Bangladesh).
A respected statesman, lawyer and politician, he served for several years as dewan (chief minister) of Jhalawar, Rajasthan, and used the Sanskrit spelling of the family name and removed its last part.
Shyam was married to Shankar’s mother Hemangini Devi who hailed from a small village named Nasrathpur in Mardah block of Ghazipur district, near Benares, and her father was a prosperous landlord.
Shyam later worked as a lawyer in London, England, and there he married a second time while Devi raised Shankar in Varanasi, and did not meet his son until he was eight years old.
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.
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.
Uday’s dance group toured Europe and the United States in the early to mid-1930s and Shankar learned French, discovered Western classical music, jazz, cinema and became acquainted with Western customs.
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.
Shankar declined to attend due to problems in his marriage, but recommended Ali Akbar Khan to play instead.
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.
The years 1950-55 were a particularly intense period of compositional activity, most notably in the internationally-acclaimed film studios of Calcutta, where he scored The Ray Triology.
For his outstanding contribution to Indian music and culture, he received his first of five Presidential Awards in 1962, India’s highest honor in the arts.
In the mid-1960s, his preeminence as one of the world’s leading serious musicians was augmented with wide popular success.
George Harrison of The Beatles developed a deep, abiding interest in Hindustani music, and began to study with Shankar.
Daughter Norah Jones, born in 1979, was from a relationship with Sue Jones, a New York concert producer.
After fathering his daughter Anoushka Shankar with Sukanya Rajan in 1981, Shankar lived with Sue Jones until 1986 when he returned to Rajan and eventually married her.
As an ambassador of peace, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar plays a key role in conflict resolution and spreads his vision of non-violence at public forums and gatherings world-wide.
Regarded as a neutral figure with a sole agenda of peace, he represents hope to people in conflict.
He has received particular credit for bringing opposing parties to the negotiating table in Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Kashmir and Bihar.