Shankar, Ravi

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Shankar, Ravi

Ravi Shankar (Robindra Shankar Chowdhury), 1920–2012, Indian sitarist and composer, b. Varanasi. He was the first Indian instrumentalist to attain an international reputation and is credited with introducing traditional Indian music to the West. As a youth Shankar was a noted solo dancer with his brother Uday's Indian dance troupe in Paris, and he studied (1938–45) with the instrumentalist Ustad Allauddin Khan, whose daughter, Annapurna, he later married. Proficient on many instruments, Shankar became a virtuoso of the sitar, and in 1957 he made the first of several concert tours of the United States. In 1962 he founded the Kinnara School of Music in Mumbai. George Harrison of the Beatles studied (1965) sitar with Shankar, and the band's recordings began featuring the instrument. Other rock groups followed suit, and for a time the sitar was a rock instrument. As the foremost sitar player, Shankar was catapulted to fame. His 1967 concert tour of the United States was a great success, and he was invited to hold classes at U.S. colleges and universities.

From the 1980s on Shankar also explored the possibilities of merging Indian music with electronic synthesizer and emulator technology. Among Shankar's many compositions are the scores for the motion pictures Pather Panchali (1954), Charly (1968), and Gandhi (1982) as well as ballets and concerti for sitar and orchestra. He collaborated with such musicians as violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and also with composer Philip Glass on the electronic recording Passages (1990). Shankar also served (1986–92) in India's parliament. His daughter, Anoushka Shankar, 1981–, who studied with him, also is a virtuoso sitarist.

See his autobiographies (1969 and 1997); biography (2002) by A. Shankar (his daughter); D. Ghosh, ed., The Great Shankars: Uday, Ravi (1983); John Musilli, dir., Ravi Shankar and Friends (documentary, 1976).

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