Ravi Shankar, sitar maestro, dies at age 92

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WASHINGTON, December 12, 2012 – Time has stilled the Sitar of India’s musical ambassador Ravi Shankar  (born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012).  Shankar died late Tuesday afternoon in San Diego.

Shankar’s life has been on stage for more than 10 decades. Friend and fellow musician George Harrison (February 25, 1943 – November 29, 2001) labeled him the “Godfather of world music,” and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remarked upon learning of his death that Ravi Shankar is a “national treasure.”

As a youth, Shankar began performing as part of his uncle’s renowned Indian dance group until 1938, when he began to study Sitar under Allauddin Khan, one of the most revered teachers of Indian classical music in the 20th century. 

While Shankar was one of India’s most well known artists, touring Europe and America starting in the mid-1950s, he gained popular international fame via his relationship with George Harrison, famously teaching Harrison how to play the sitar.

Personal friends, Shankar and Harrison collaborated on many occasions. Shankar was a popular performer on the American rock stage, playing with top stars including a four hour set at the Monterey Pop Festival and appearing on the opening day of Woodstock.

Ravi Shankar continued to perform throughout his life, appearing in November 2012 at the concert “An Evening with the Maestro Ravi Shankar, Celebrating His Tenth Decade.”

Shankar and Annapurna Devi, daughter of Allauddin Khan, married in 1941, producing a son Shubhendra Shankar (1942-1992). A later relationship with New York concert promoter Sue Jones led to the birth of popular music artist Norah Jones in 1979.

In 1981, Shankar became a father once again when Anoushka Shankar was born to Sukanya Rajan, whom he married in 1989. He lived with Sukanya in Encinitas, California.

Anoushka, an accomplished Sitar player in her own right, gave birth to grandson Zubin Shankar Wright in November 2011. All together, Shankar is survived by his wife Sukanya, daughters Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar Wright, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. 

Shankar received India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna (1999) and three Grammy awards, his most recent in 2000 for his album “Full Circle/Carnegie Hall.” 

His latest album, “Room Sessions – Part 1” is nominated in the upcoming 55th Grammy Awards. 

Shankar was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work with George Fenton on the soundtrack for Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi.”

Ravi Shankar was awarded his 17th doctorate in 2010, the latest honor being bestowed by the University of Melbourne in recognition of Shankar’s “commitment to music and humanity.” Shankar’s devotion to the children of the world, including his participation in The Concert for Bangladesh, organized with George Harrison, is legendary. 

The Concert for Bangladesh came about when Shankar asked Harrison to help India recover from the devastations from the 1970 Bhola cyclone resulting floods, famine, and ongoing civil war.

Together they were able to attract the day’s leading musicians, including Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Billy Preston for a 1971 concert at Madison Square Garden raising $250,000 for relief. The follow-up live album, box-set and Apple Films documentary have raised more than $17 million (2011 reporting) with funds being administered by the UNICEF foundation of which Harrison remained a supporter all of his life. The George Harrison Fund for UNICEF recently raised more than $1.225 million for children in the Horn of Africa.

Beyond the charity resulting from The Concert for Bangladesh, this collaboration of Harrison and Shankar is notable as the first time a rock concert event was used to call attention to and benefit to the plight of children around the world. 

On Wednesday, 12-12-12, musicians Bruce Springsteen, Chris Martin (Coldplay), Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney will join together at Madison Square Gardens to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. One can be sure they will pause to recognize the life, the music and the legacies of both Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. 

Sukanya Shankar and Anoushka Shankar Wright’s released the following statement:

“It is with heavy hearts we write to inform you that Pandit Ravi Shankar, husband, father, and musical soul, passed away today, December 11, 2012.

“As you all know, his health has been fragile for the past several years, and on Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away.

“We know that you all feel our loss with us, and we thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes through this difficult time. Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music.”

With deep appreciation for his work on behalf of children, his gift of charity and his music, The Communities Digital News expresses our condolences to the friends and family of Ravi Shankar.


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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award winning journalist that began writing in 1993 following a successful career in marketing and advertising in Chicago.  She started Communities Digital News in 2009 as a way to adapt to the changing online journalism marketing place.  Jacquie is President and Managing Editor of Communities Digital News, LLC and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times Communities as well as a member of the National Association of Professional Woman, New American Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalist.  Email Jacquie here

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