India is a vast country with many different cultures and traditions. But in every part of the country one thing is common and that is their love for music. Music is an integral part of Indian’s life. Classical music is one of the oldest forms of Indian music and it is still appreciated by many people not only in India but in the world. Earlier the fame of classical music was limited within India and few Asian countries. But now it is very well recognized globally.
The credit for the popularity of Indian classical music goes to many stalwarts of Indian classical music. Pandit Ravi Shanker is one of them. His contribution to Hindustani classical music cannot be summed up in few words. He was the first person who mixed the Indian and western music together and invented a new form of music.
The Early Life of Pandit Ravi Shanker
Ravi Shanker was born in Bengali family in 1920 in Varanasi. Ravi Shanker, the famous sitar maestro, started his journey in the world of Indian classical music as a dancer, not as a sitarist. In the early decades of the twentieth century, there was an absence of good sitarists in Indian music industry. It was the time when Pt. Ravi Shanker started the practice of sitar. Under the training of his guru Alauddin Khan, he also learned to play few more musical instruments like the Rudra Veena and the rubab.
Musical Journey of Pt. Ravi Shanker
Ravi Shanker started to learn sitar in 1938 from his teacher Alauddin and by the end of the year 1939, he started to perform publicly. After the completion of his training in 1944, Pt. Ravi Shanker moved to Mumbai and started his work under Indian People’s Theatre Association. In 1945 Pt. Shanker recomposed the music for ‘Sare Jahan Se Accha’ this work became very popular and it added a feather in his cap. Now he started recording music for a famous music company named HMV. He also worked as a music director for AIR (All India Radio). By this time Pandit Ravi Shanker became a well-known personality in India. In 1950 he composed the music for Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy. This movie along with Ravi Shanker’s music gained appreciation on many international platforms.
The Journey of Sitar Maestro From East to West
It was the sitar of Ravi Shanker who took Indian music to the world and influenced many people. In western countries, Pandit Ravi Shankar became so popular that people used to say that they heard about India and Indian music after hearing the music of Pandit Ravi Shanker. In the year 1955, Ravi Shanker has introduced to Yehudi Menuhin a violinist from the west. Yehudi invited Ravi Shankar to perform in New York to demonstrate Indian music.
After the New York performance, there was no turning back for Ravi Shanker. He resigned from AIR and started his musical tours in the UK, US, and Germany. In June 1966, George Harrison met Ravi Shankar in London and befriended with him. This friendship worked as a wonder in the world of music.
The Collaboration of the Sitar With the Beatles
Harrison was deeply influenced by Indian music. He introduced Ravi Shanker and Indian sitar to the well-known music band the Beatles. The collaboration of Indian and western music gave rise to a new genre of music. This new type of music was known as raga rock. It was the first time when any Indian musician and Indian musical instrument got so much fame on international platforms.
Pandit Ravi Shankar’s concert in Bangladesh in 1971 brought more fame to him. This concert was organized by Harrison. This concert featured globally recognized performers such as Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. It was considered as the first large modern charity concert to help Bangladeshi refugees. Pandit Ravi Shanker received Grammy award for this performance.
Pandit Ravi Shanker has won three Grammy awards including one lifetime achievement award. Pandit Ravi Shanker was also honored with highest Indian civilian award. He passed away on December 2012 in California, at the age of 92.