Indian musical legend, sitar maestro and cultural icon Pandit Ravi Shanker has passed away at the age of 92. On 6 December 2012, Shankar was admitted to Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego after complaining of breathing difficulties. He died on 11 December at around 4:30pm PST.
Shankar was born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury on 7 April 1920 in Varanasi to a Bengali Brahmin family as the youngest of seven brothers. At the age of ten, after spending his first decade in Varanasi, Shankar went to Paris with the dance group of his brother, choreographer Uday Shankar. By the age of 13 he had become a member of the group, accompanied its members on tour and learned to dance and play various Indian instruments.
Having toured with them in Europe and America in the early to mid-1930s and Shankar learned French, discovered Western classical music, jazz, and cinema, and became acquainted with Western customs. He then trained under Allaoudin Khan and had training on sitar and surbahar, learned ragas and the musical styles dhrupad, dhamar, and khyal, and was taught the techniques of the instruments rudra veena, rubab, and sursingar.
For nearly three decades, ever since his first solo tour of the United States and Europe in the 1956-57 season, Ravi Shankar has served as India’s unofficial ambassador for music.
The music doyen was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 1999. He also received three Grammy Awards and was competing against his daughter Anoushka Shankar, also a sitar player, for another Grammy in 2013. An affair with Sue Jones, a New York concert producer, led to the birth of Norah Jones in 1979.
Ravi Shankar (7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012)