Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Another great musician moves on to the next incarnation.

Sitar virtuoso Pandit Ravi Shankar was the Eddie Van Halen of his genre and his hands moved at blinding speed over the instrument. He was a product of the Maihar gharana (school) of Northern Indian classical music which was founded principally by the sarod maestro Ustad Allaudin Khan in the Madhya Pradesh state of India. A sitar can have 21, 22, or 23 strings, among them six or seven played strings which run over the frets. Ravi used the Kharaj-pancham sitar (which has seven played strings).

Through his association with George Harrison, he became world famous in the mid sixties. His was not a shallow pursuit of the limelight by any means. While he was prodigiously talented, musical expression was tied to deep spiritual beliefs.

This was his life.

Practicing for hours each day, it would have been unthinkable for him or his fellow students to go before an audience without having first put in the 10,000 hours required to be great.

Great is an understatement when it comes to his genius.

Shankar was one of a kind. Thanks to him, a large part of the western world has been turned on to the shimmering beauty of classical Indian music.

Here he is with Ali Akbar Khan, August 1971 at the Concert for Bangladesh, performing "Bangla Dhun". Again, it was at his urging that George Harrison took up the task of putting together a benefit to provide relief for refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), following the 1970 Bhola cyclone and the civil war-related Bangladesh atrocities.

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