Ragas Never Die: A Tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar

Sometimes he makes his sitar wail like a cat, or imitate a baby crying out in the audience. He repeats a phrase several times, indicating that he has no control over his hand, until he slaps his instrument in playful anger. He gives me little winks behind his instrument, or reminds us all of some inside joke. I love that he makes it comfortable enough for us all to laugh together on stage.”
                                                                                        – Anoushka Shankar

It was evening and I mourned.
With Sandhya Raag I sat in despair, for he is no more.
The lovely soul that made love with sitar with immense passion will never play again.
That life of everlasting joy and music is gone and so my dreams of hearing him live shattered.
This is a sad time/Let me weep/A sad moment for the country/A loss of national treasure/The world mourns.
Together, let us weep.

ravi-shankar

His immortal life:

Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury aka Bapi (called by Anoushka) aka Pt.Ravi Shankar was a genius, creator, pioneer, humanitarian, instrumentalist, orator and a messiah (As portrayed by Anoushka Shankar in her book-Bapi: The love of my life).

Born in Banaras and played vibrantly across the ghats and Ganga River. At 13, Ravi matures and accompanied his bro Uday’s dance troupe (that amalgamated western and traditional dance) in his tour across Europe and America. He danced like a semi-divine being, so beautifully that compelled James Joyce to comment on his perpetual charm.

Ustad Allaudin Khan, the Maihar court musician and sitar maestro taught sitar to the magnanimous, 18 year old boy, who performed meticulously in no time. Then happened IPTA (Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association) after which Shankar recomposed the music for the popular song “Sare Jahan Se Achcha” at the age of 25. He became the director of All India Radio in 1949. Beginning in the mid-1950s he composed the music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, which became internationally acclaimed.

pt.ravi shankar

Unlike other Indian musicians (or rather I would say Gharanas), Ravishankar was rhetoric and an iconoclast. He sabotaged the walls that were rooted strong down myriad years old Indian soils and took Indian music outside the borders. By 1960, Ravishankar moved to a global stage. The east met the west and did Jugalbandi (duet). He began touring Europe and America while influencing, popularizing and astonishing the westerners. George Harrison became a good friend of him and even learned sitar from him (The picture of them together in one shawl flashes in my mind) and bought a sitar and used it to record the song “Norwegian Wood”. Even Yehudi Menuhin learned the joy of sitting cross legged on the floor to play violin from Pandit.

Raga Rock evolved, Ravi Shankar became the most famous Indian musician on the planet, and Won Grammy’s and earned Bharat Ratna, and became a legend.

With Allauddin Khan’s daughter Annapurna Devi, danseuse Kamala Shastri, concert producer Sue Jones and Sukanya Rajan, Ravishankar fell in love with many in his life, all but burning passions. Well, we know his sweet girls Norah and Anoushka, so lovely!

He was 92 and smiling and died of heart issues. His sitar will miss those playful fingers.

Pt.Ravi Shankar

I remember all those breathtaking sessions of Pandit Ravi Shankar with Allah Rakha and Zakir Hussain and with her ever beautiful daughter Anoushka (I saw on YouTube).

I remember watching him speak on television, so soothingly as the waves of the sea and dreaming of watching him in reality.

I don’t know how to play the sitar, so I give my tribute in words as I weep.

An era has ended and we will mourn.

As the night passes by, I hear and feel Raag Maru Bihag.

But tomorrow when the sun comes up, we will wash our faces and clean the marks of dried tears. And listen to Morning Love (my favorite) and celebrate the genius music of Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Prarambh

Though I have lived a life full of beauty, pleasures and pain, unlike movie or pop stars. I do not like to talk about them. Having a super creative mind I do feel at times I have not accomplished all the things I wanted to. I always want to do more and cannot rest on my laurels. I am grateful to my guru, god and good fortune for all the awards I’ve received, no matter how big or small
                                                                                         – Pt. Ravi Shankar

Sitar

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