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Ravi Shankar

Pandit Ravi Shankar is born April 7, 1920, in Benares, United Provinces, British India) is an Indian sitar player and composer. He is a disciple of Baba Allauddin Khan, the founder of the Maihar gharana of Hindustani classical music.

Shankar is one of the great sitar players of the modern era, and known for his technical mastery of the instrument. He has been the longtime musical collaborator of tabla-players Pandit Chatur Lal and Ustad Allah Rakha and also intermittently of sarod-player Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. His collaboration with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, film maker Satyajit Ray and later with the The Beatles, and in particular, George Harrison, added to his international reputation. Shankar is the brother of dancer Uday Shankar, and the father of singer Norah Jones and sitarist Anoushka Shankar. In 1999, Pandit Ravi Shankar became the second classical musician to receive the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor.

Musical career

Ravi not only studied under Allaudin Khan, but actually lived with him as if he were his son. This type of mentorship is typical of the Indian Classical music tradition. Ravi's first public performances in India came in 1939. Formal training ended in 1944, and he worked out of Bombay. He began writing scores for film and ballet and started a recording career with HMV's Indian affiliate. He became music director of All India Radio in the 1950s. From 1946 onwards he began to compose original music for films. Some of his most noted scores include the ones for Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy and Richard Attenborough's Gandhi.

Shankar then became well known to the music world outside India, first performing in the Soviet Union in 1953 and then the West in 1956. He performed in major events such as the Edinburgh Festival as well as major venues such as Royal Festival Hall.

He was invited to play venues that were unusual for a classical musician, such as the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, California, with Ustad Allah Rakha on tabla. He was also one of the artists who performed at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, and with Harrison was one of the organizers of The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, in an attempt to raise awareness of the growing crisis that was occurring in East Pakistan where Shankar's family origins lay. Ravi Shankar & Friends co-headlined Harrison's 1974 tour of North America with mixed reviews. His final working album with Harrison was on a 1997 album, Chants of India, where Harrison grew an interest in chant music. After his colleague's death on 29 November in 2001, after a long fight against cancer, Shankar, his daughter, Anoushka, along with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, among many others attended Concert for George in London, where Shankar dedicated the memorial to Harrison.

Shankar has been critical of some facets of the Western reception of Indian music. On a trip to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district after performing in Monterey, Shankar wrote, "I felt offended and shocked to see India being regarded so superficially and its great culture being exploited. Yoga, Tantra, mantra, kundalini, ganja, hashish, Kama Sutra? They all became part of a cocktail that everyone seemed to be lapping up!" In 1969 he published an English language autobiography, My Music, My Life

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 Ho-zan 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 Chappaqua, Charly, Gandhi (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award), 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. In 2002, Ravi and his daughter Anoushka played at "The Concert For George". 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 also composed the sitar part in Glass's 2004 composition Orion.

Honors

Shankar is an honorary 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 14 honorary doctorates, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam, the Magsaysay Award from Manila, three Grammy Awards, the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize (Grand Prize) from Japan, and the Crystal Award from Davos, with the title "Global Ambassador," to name but some. In 1986 he was nominated to be a member of the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of Parliament, for six years. In 2002, he was conferred the inaugural Indian Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award. The Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, was awarded to him in 1999. In 1998 he was awarded the Polar Music Prize with Ray Charles. He shared an Academy Award nomination with George Fenton for Best Original Score to Gandhi (1982).
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