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Indian musical treasure Ravi Shankar dies at 92

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hippie musical icon, world-renowned sitar player, Beatles confidante and father of singer Norah Jones, Indian musical icon Ravi Shankar has passed away at the age of 92. He introduced many in the west to the pleasures of the sitar and had a career that stretched over eight decades. The Indian prime minister's office has confirmed his passing and proclaimed him a "national treasure."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Beatle George Harrison labeled Shankar as "the godfather of world music." Shankar was directly responsible for exposing millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers to the centuries-old traditions of Indian music.

Shankar also pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.

Shankar began collaborating with and teaching some of the greats of Western music s early as the Fifties. Among his many students was violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Shankar faced a constant cultural divide when trying to bridge the gap between the West and the Eastern styles of music.

Time magazine said "U.S. audiences were receptive but occasionally puzzled," describing an early Shankar tour in 1957.

Shankar's close relationship with George Harrison, the Beatles lead guitarist, shot Shankar to global stardom in the Sixties.

The sitar, a long necked, string instrument that uses a bulbous gourd for its resonating chamber and resembles a giant lute intrigued Harrison, who played the instrument, with a Western tuning, on the song "Norwegian Wood." He later sought out Shankar, already a musical icon in India, to teach him to play it properly.

Weeks of intense training between Harrison and Shankar followed. Harrison, finally confident with the instrument recorded the Indian-inspired song "Within You Without You" on the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Shankar began to play with the top rock musicians of the era, playing a four-hour set at the Monterey Pop Festival and the opening day of Woodstock.

Shankar, a serious, disciplined traditionalist who had played Carnegie Hall, was vehemently opposed to drug use and rebelliousness of the hippie culture.

"I was shocked to see people dressing so flamboyantly. They were all stoned. To me, it was a new world," Shankar told Rolling Stone magazine of the Monterey festival.

Shankar was horrified when Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire. "That was too much for me. In our culture, we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God," he said.

Shankar's personal life was marked my divorces and long-term love affairs. In 1979, he fathered Norah Jones with New York concert promoter Sue Jones, and in 1981, Sukanya Rajan, who played the tanpura at his concerts, gave birth to his daughter Anoushka.

He grew estranged from Sue Jones in the 80s and didn't see Norah for a decade, though they later re-established contact.

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