The SITAR slilently weeps...!! Ravi Shankar Expires!

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At 6 a.m. (IST), the God of Sitar, the uncrowned King, the
Thespian of meaningful Music - Pandit Ravi Shankar, the Maestro expired in a hospital near his home in Southern California. He was 92.

According to his family's statement, Ravi Shankar ji had suffered from upper respiratory and heart ailments in the last year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last Thursday.

Ravi Shankar ji, a soft-spoken, eloquent man whose performance style embodied a virtuosity that transcended musical languages, was trained in both Eastern and Western musical traditions. He was simply a mind-blowing musician, who did take the world of music by storm and quite naturally became a living legend!
Although Western audiences were often mystified by the odd sounds and shapes of the instruments when he began touring in Europe and the United States in the early 1950s, Ravi Shankar and his ensemble gradually built a large following for Indian music.He  happens to be one of the most celebrated and extensively gifted musician  partly responsible for the acceptance and popularity of Indian Music in the Occident over the years...

His instrument, the Sitar, had 6 melody strings and 25 sympathetic strings, also known as 'Chikari' (which are not played but resonated freely as the other strings are plucked). Sitar performances are basically improvised, but the improvisations are strictly governed by a repertory of ragas (melodic patterns representing specific moods, times of day, seasons of the year or events) and talas (intricate rhythmic patterns) that date back several millenniums, and here Shankar-ji simply took off with his musical wings like a great 'condor' up in the sky of creative music, taking the listeners along with him to a heaven that he created before their very own eyes...!!!

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Ravi Shankar ji's quest for a Western audience was helped in 1965 when George Harrison of the Beatles began to study the sitar with him. But Harrison was not the first Western musician to seek Ravi Shankar’s guidance. In 1952 he met and began performing with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, with whom he made three recordings for EMI: "West Meets East" (1967), "West Meets East, Vol. 2" (1968) and "Improvisations: East Meets West" (1977).

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Ravi Shankar ji loved to mix the music of different cultures and finally created something of his own, and that made him stand apart. His albums, his recordings, his works as a Music Director (his works with Satyajit Ray and other internationally famous film - directors) in several productions, films, documentaries, operas needs practically an HUGE space, if it needs to be properly archived in written or other recorded forms, but to mention a few I can say that he collaborated with the flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and the jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, who had become fascinated with Indian music and philosophy in the early ’60s.
Coltrane met with Ravi Shankar ji several times from 1964 to 1966 to learn the basics of ragas, talas (Rhythms) and Indian improvisation techniques. Coltrane named his son Ravi after Pandit ji himself!

He also collaborated with several prominent Japanese musicians like "Hozan Yamamoto, a shakuhachi (a typical kind of Oriental flute with a breathy sound) player, and Susumu Miyashita, a koto player ( a Japanese percussion)" on "East Greets East," a 1978 recording in which Indian and Japanese influences intermingled. I've heard the entire album, and one really cannot believe, what a genius can do with the Japanese instruments and milieu of Oriental Music!

n addition to his frequent tours as a sitarist Mr. Shankar was a prolific composer of film music (including the score for Richard Attenborough’s "Gandhi" in 1982), ballets, electronic works and concertos for sitar and Western orchestras.

In 1988 his seven-movement "Swar Milan" was performed at the Palace of Culture in Moscow by an ensemble of 140 musicians, including the Russian Folk Ensemble, members of the Moscow Philharmonic and the Ministry of Culture Chorus, as well as Ravi Shankar’s own group of Indian musicians. And in 1990 he collaborated with the Minimalist composer "Philip Glass" who had worked as his assistant on the film score for "Chappaqua" in the late 1960s " on "Passages," a recording of works he and Mr. Glass composed for each other.

"I have always had an instinct for doing new things," Ravi Shankar ji said in 198, "Call it good or bad, I always love to experiment."

Ravi Shankar, whose formal name was Robindra Shankar Chowdhury, was born on April 7, 1920, in Varanasi, India, to a family of musicians and dancers. His older brother the legendary dancer Uday Shankar directed a touring Indian dance troupe, which Ravi joined when he was 10. Within five years he had become one of the company’s star soloists. He also discovered that he had a natural talent with the sitar and the sarod, another stringed instrument, as well as the flute and the tabla, an Indian drum.
A genius, in few words in I'm allowed to describe him, the Maestro took the world by storm and went onto become on of the most celebrated musicians of the entire wide world. His performances with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Yehudi Menuhin, V. G. Jog, other Western Musicians and above all with Ustad Allah Rakha and Zakir Hussain are things that are woven in pure gold and stored in the annals of musical history for a an infinite number of years; the entire future.
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Way back in the mid-eighties when I was in my twenties, I witnessed him a number if times LIVE, performing in Dover Lane Concert and other concerts organized in Netaji Indoor Stadium along with Ustad Allah Rakha on the Tabla and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan on the Sarod (jugal-bandi) - that was a performance which someone can never-ever forget!
Today, the 12/12/12, is indeed a very "SAD DAY" in the History and Calendar of International Music. Let us all pray for him, and his Peace of his everlasting Soul!

(nilanjan.nandy@gmail.com)