Before Bollywood music, the world knew of Indian music through the sitar of Pt. Ravi Shankar

It is not every day that a musician gets labeled the “Godfather of world music”, and when such a legend passes away, he leaves an inexplicable void in the hearts of scores of music lovers worldwide. Pt. Ravi Shankar’s death this week has done just that.

ravi shankar

Pt. Ravi Shankar

Today, the current generation around the world associates Indian music to the Bollywood song and dance routine, and AR Rahman is probably one of the largest symbols of the current music given his Oscar wins. But the one who really got Indian music onto the World stage, was not AR Rahman or Lata Mangeshkar, but the legend who recently passed away – Pt. Ravi Shankar.

During a career spanning over seven decades, Pt. Ravi Shankar brought classical Indian music to Western shores through the sitar, his string instrument of choice. Today we see A R Rehman perform full house concerts across Europe and America, compose for Hollywood films such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ or ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ and enthrall music lovers across the world. But Pt. Ravi Shankar set the stage for today’s Indian artist’s way back in the 1970s, when he performed across the world with Western musical greats such as George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin and John Coltrane. In many ways he also brought the showmanship missing in Indian classical performances, glamorizing them up for both Indian as well as Western audiences. Pt. Ravi Shankar produced memorable world music albums, but by his own admission never played fusion music.

A R Rehman

A R Rehman is amongst the best known Indian musicians today

In more recent times, he became widely known in the US as the estranged father of multiple Grammy award winner Norah Jones. His other daughter, Anoushka Shankar is also an acclaimed sitarist and carrying on her father’s legacy. It is no wonder the father-daughter duo have been nominated in the same category at this year’s Grammys.

Pt. Ravi Shankar epitomized Indian music for the world, and his provides an opportunity to promising young Indian artists such as Aman Ali Khan, Ayaan Ali Khan, Rahul Sharma, A R Rehman to fill his huge shoes and redefine Indian music for a global audience.

Do you have any memories/anecdotes from Pt. Ravi Shankar’s concerts to share? It would be great to hear/see/listen to them.

-Sanjay Puri

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