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Ravi Shankar

From Academic Kids

Bharat Ratna Ravi Shankar (born April 7, 1920) is an Indian (Bengali) musician best known for his virtuosity with the sitar. A disciple of Baba Allauddin Khan (founder of the Maihar gharana of Hindustani classical music), Pandit Ravi Shankar is arguably the best-known Indian instrumentalist.

He was generally unknown outside of India until the musician George Harrison, a member of The Beatles, began experimenting with the sitar in 1965. The two eventually met due to this common interest and became close friends, and that in turn gave Shankar worldwide fame as Harrison's mentor.

This development greatly expanded his career. He was invited to play venues that were unusual for a classical musician, such as the 1967 Monterey Music Festival in Monterey, California. He was also one of the artists who performed at Woodstock Festival, where he realised that hippies weren't the right audience because of their attitude towards drugs and India. Since then, Shankar has maintained a steady and acclaimed career as a musician and recording artist.

Shankar has written two concertos for sitar and orchestra, violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal, and music for Hosan Yamamoto, master of the shakuhachi (Japanese flute), and koto virtuoso Musumi Miyashita. He has composed extensively for films and ballets in India, Canada, Europe and the United States, including Charly, Gandhi and the Apu Trilogy. His recording "Tana Mana", released on the Private Music label in 1987, penetrated the New Age genre with its unique combination of traditional instruments with electronics. The classical composer Philip Glass acknowledges Shankar as a major influence, and the two collaborated to produce Passages, a recording of compositions in which each reworks themes composed by the other.

Shankar is an honourary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a member of the United Nations International Rostrum of composers. He has received many awards and honours from his own country and from all over the world, including fourteen honorary doctorates, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam, the Magsaysay Award from Manila, two Grammys, the Fukuoka Grand Prize from Japan, and the Crystal Award from Davos with the title "Global Ambassador", to name but some. In 1986 he was nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of Parliament.

Talking about the image of Shankar in India, it is interesting to note that Indian music critics think Ali Akbar Khan is much the greater musicologist and the Sitar will never sound better than it did in the hands of Vilayat Khan. Also to consider the fact that for sheer touch and control on the frets, the late Nikhil Bannerjee was much finer a performer than he has been given credit for. But none of these players had that quality of cosmopolitanism, which marks Ravi Shankar's personality. Bharat Ratna has been awarded to him because he has been both: a musician and a musical ambassador.

Shankar currently resides in Encinitas, California. His daughters Anoushka Shankar (who performs with him) and Grammy winner Norah Jones are also musicians. Sitarist Ananda Shankar is his nephew.

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