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Detail of Biography - Pandit Ravi Shankar
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Pandit Ravi Shankar
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Biography - Pandit Ravi Shankar
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[b]The Early Tunes[/b][br /]
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he music of the chants, the magic of the temple bells of the religious city of Varanasi, welcomed the birth of Ravi Shankar on April 7, 1920. Ravi Shankar was born into a Bengali Brahmin family. His father, Pandit Shyam Shankar, was a diwan (minister) in service of the Maharaja of Jhalawar, a small state in Rajasthan. He was also a great scholar in Sanskrit and philosophy, and had studied the Vedas and Vedic hymns.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar was the youngest amongst his brothers – Uday, Rajendra, Debendra and Bhupendra. He was very attached to his mother, a soft-spoken, sensitive lady with abundance of inner strength. When his father served at Jhalawar, Ravi Shankar’s mother was one of the Queen’s principal companions. She always participated in the musical events held in the Maharani’s private court, and had the opportunity to listen to all the famous female singers of the time.[br /]
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At the age of eight Rajendra’s friend taught him various Bengali songs. Many of them were Rabindranath Tagore’s masterpieces. Ravi Shankar’s tender voice and love for singing was appreciated by the family and he was often called upon to sing in front of guests. Initially, he was nervous and shy but soon began enjoying the attention and rendered the songs coupled with music on the harmonium.[br /]
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Young Ravi Shankar also imitated and sang religious songs and those from Hindi and Bengali music dramas that played on their old gramophone.[br /]
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Meanwhile, his father left the service in Jhalawar and went to London to practice law. Ravi Shankar’s eldest brother Uday also went to London to study painting at the Royal College of Art. Ravi Shankar along with his brothers and mother lived on the pension provided by the Maharaja of Jhalawar initially, but were soon under financial constraints. Though his mother managed the household, she occasionally went to an old pawn broker and pawned jewelry and fine fabric for money. She did not like to part with the various gifts she received from the Maharani when her husband was the minister. However, her grief affected Ravi Shankar a great deal.[br /]
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At the end of 1929, Uday returned to Benaras after completing his art course. He was now attracted towards dance. His father was experimenting with Indian ballet and Uday assisted him in choreography and other aspects of production. He acquainted himself with various dancers and styles of dances. He also enriched his knowledge of folk and tribal dances and set up a large collection of musical instruments from all parts of India. Uday then announced that he was organizing a troupe for a tour abroad and wanted all the brothers to join in and invited his cousins, a maternal uncle, musicians etc. His mother also had to go along and Ravi Shankar was to complete his education in Paris. Planning and decision-making regarding their trip to Paris went on for a few months. Finally, in the fall of 1930, they left for Paris.[br /]
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[b]Enroute To Paris[/b][br /]
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The long trip to Paris through cities, by train and ferry left a lasting impression on young Ravi Shankar’s mind. The transition from Benaras to Bombay to Venice and finally to Paris made Ravi Shankar "sick with excitement". Once they settled in their rented house, their rehearsals and training in dance began. Ravi Shankar wondered at the collection of drums and stringed instruments that Uday had collected. The troupe members noticed him plucking the strings of sitar or esraj, experimenting on the tabla and complimented him, on his talent. Ravi Shankar was delighted at the praise heaped on him. Since Ravi Shankar had an ear for music, he listened attentively when the orchestra practiced and imitated them very well, but had no idea about their techniques. Every troupe member worked enthusiastically. Ravi Shankar looked up to Uday and was amazed at the immense power he showed when he danced. Uday was his hero, his Superman. He helped him shape his artistic and creative personality and in becoming a total human being. Under Uday’s guidance, he began to understand and appreciate traditional Indian art and culture forms. He was trained in stagecraft, lighting, set-design and general performance.[br /]
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At Paris, Ravi Shankar joined a French Catholic School where he had a tough time. Since he did not know French, he was first placed in junior class where his classmates were much younger to him. Secondly, the boys there misbehaved with him time and again. "Such nasty little devils," Ravi Shankar recollects. So, he spent more time with girls and they preferred his company for he was more cultured than the other boys.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar found it difficult to adapt to the European culture. He had to take private lessons.[br /]
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This helped him spend time with the troupe during rehearsals, to wander about, read etc. He also acquainted himself with Indian, western classical, and jazz music. In 1932, when his mother left for India, he felt homesick but later, joined the group on all their tours.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar mostly spent his lonely times reading the works of Tagore, Victor Hugo, Sarat Chandra etc. All these literary personalities created a deep impact on the young boy. As a part of the troupe, Ravi Shankar played musical instruments to accompany dancers especially the sarod and esraj. Under the direction of Uday, he also learnt dance and performed the role of the monkey god and a snake-devil.[br /]
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By 16, he was tall and slim and his dance had improved. He was then given important roles. He also performed his first solo, choreographed by himself on Chitrasena, a character in the court of Indra. This performance was acclaimed by the critics of that time.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar also had the opportunity to meet western musicians like Georges Enesco Andres Segovia. He also attended performances of Toscanni, Paderewski, Casals, Heiftz, Kreisler and Chaliapin. With an excellent collection of records at home, Ravi Shankar acquainted himself with various symphonies, concertos and solo compositions. He enjoyed French accordion music, Spanish music, Russian balalaikas and Hungarian music.[br /]
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This creative family was visited by various musicians and they talked about Indian music with authority. Western artists found Indian music repetitive and missing in modulation like counterpoint or harmony. This disappointed Ravi Shankar because they could not comprehend its greatness. This realization motivated him, in later years, to explain its characteristics at concerts and workshops, justifying the repetitiveness and missing modulation.[br /]
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In 1932, the troupe made its American debut, visiting New York. The Statue of Liberty, the skyscrapers, the Broadway, the lights and non-stop cinema, etc. enchanted young Ravi Shankar. He heard jazz played live for the first time in New York. The frozen Lake Michigan of Chicago, the freezing winds, the swarm of merry ice skaters, all thrilled him.[br /]
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Their performances in the United States and Germany were a great success and turned out to be memorable.[br /]
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[b]Back In Home Town[/b][br /]
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Uday’s troupe returned to India in 1934. Ravi Shankar was busy learning Kathakali under Guru Shankaran Namboodri, but all through this time his love for instrumental music, especially sitar and other stringed instruments sustained. Probably it was destiny that slowly attracted Ravi Shankar towards stringed instruments. He came across Vishnudas Shirali, who was adept at the sitar. He was so amazed by the speed and technical prowess of this nephew of Tionir Baran, their troupe’s music director, that he decided to learn the sitar.[br /]
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That year Ravi Shankar met Ustad Allaudin Khan for the first time at the all Bengal music conference. Uday Shankar invited the Ustad to join their troupe to Europe as a soloist and he agreed. As per tour plans, they left for Singapore, when a message arrived informing them that their father had died in London. Aborting their plan, they immediately returned to India to be by their mother’s side.[br /]
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Another tour was planned to Europe via Bombay, Cairo, Alexandria, Greece, and Bulgaria. Allaudin Khan was to join them in Bombay. The day arrived to set sail for Europe on choppy seas with windy conditions. Ravi Shankar’s mother had arrived at Bombay to see them off. She looked sad and forlorn. Ravi Shankar felt as if he was meeting her for the last time. Before boarding, Ravi Shankar’s mother took his hand and placed it in Allaudin Khan’s hand and said, "I am not going with you, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see my child again, so please take him and consider him as your own son." With tears in everyone’s eyes, goodbyes were exchanged and that was the last time Ravi Shankar saw of his mother.[br /]
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At the age of 13, he began to read essays, short stories, poems and plays of Tagore. Some of Tagore’s thematic poems based on Jataka tales moved Ravi Shankar to tears. After 1934, Uday’s troupe was constantly on the move, leaving little time for Ravi Shankar to read. Slowly his taste in reading changed from literature to occult and the religious. He read about the lives of great Hindu saints and yogis. He also read books on Tantra and spiritual yoga. These books affected him to such an extent that he wanted to become a well-known yogi. When he read about the history of India, its contemporary problems, he planned to become a political leader, designing ways to end the then British rule in India.[br /]
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Thus, books made a varied impression on young Ravi Shankar’s heart and mind. His rendezvous with books became an integral part of his personality.[br /]
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[b]Master ‘Stroke’[/b][br /]
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Ravi Shankar’s musical talent is deeply rooted in his training by his revered guru Ustad Allaudin Khan. Ravi Shankar’s strong belief in the traditional teaching method (guru-shishya parampara) is closely related to his relationship with his Guru Allaudin Khan, lovingly called ‘Baba’.[br /]
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Allaudin Khan was one of the sons of a well-to-do peasant family in Bengal. They were Bengali Hindus who had converted to Islam only a few generations ago. They lived amidst Hindu families and his family followed the best of both religions.[br /]
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[b]Maihar Tradition[/b][br /]
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Ravi Shankar lived with a disturbed mind for almost a year and half. To add to his woes, there was no one to whom he could pour his heart out. Uday wanted Ravi Shankar to continue learning dance, but also believed that his spending time with Baba for a few months would do no harm. Uday was also planning to disband the troupe, settle down in India and start a center for performing arts. He believed that if Ravi Shankar could master music with Baba he could assist him at the center.[br /]
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After arriving in India, Ravi Shankar first visited his ailing mother. Then he felt the need to complete the traditional Hindu sacred-thread ceremony, which he had neglected for so long. For this, he shaved his head, spent few weeks as a monk, abstaining from material things, free from worldly matters. All the while he remembered Baba and his words, as Baba beckoned him to leave all the fancy ways and come to Maihar to learn under his tutelage.[br /]
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After his religious duties were over, Ravi Shankar left for Maihar. After a few days journey, accompanied by his brother Rajendra, he reached Maihar. Doubts about his capacity to endure and persevere, his sentimentality and his inability to hear harsh words from anyone, Baba’s strict discipline and anger – haunted him on this long journey to Maihar.[br /]
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Baba was taken aback seeing the changed Ravi Shankar. A shaven head with simple clothes, a tin suitcase, along with a pillow and a blanket. But Baba was only too pleased to see this Ravi. Ravi stayed in a little house next to Baba. Life was beginning to be difficult. Maihar was a small village with howling jackals, croaking frogs, and crickets calling out at night. Ravi slept on a bed made of rope and bamboo, and ate simple food. He shared his room with over 30 boys who came to learn from Baba, but hardly did anyone stay longer than a week or 10 days. They could not bear Baba’s temper and his strict regimen.[br /]
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[b]Tough Task Master[/b][br /]
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Ravi Shankar was lucky to have known Baba earlier. He knew all the little weaknesses and peculiarities of his nature. Baba could be the gentlest of persons and sometimes the toughest. He did not spare the Maharaja who had employed him, as well. But, Ravi Shankar was never admonished by Baba. Only once had he raised his voice at him.[br /]
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In the initial days when Baba was teaching Ravi Shankar an exercise, and Ravi Shankar was not able to play it correctly, Baba exclaimed, "Ha ! You have no strength in those wrists. Da, da, da." He hit Ravi Shankar on his hands. It was Ravi Shankar’s first bitter experience. Baba taunted further, "Go, go and buy some bangles to wear on your wrists. You are like a weak little girl ! You have no strength. You can’t even do this exercise !" Ravi Shankar had had enough. He left the room enraged. He packed his bedding and belongings, marched of to the station, for home.[br /]
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While waiting for the train, Ali Akbar came running to him. On seeing Ravi Shankar’s bags, he asked as to what had happened. Ravi Shankar told him, "I don’t want to stay; he scolded me today." A confused Ali asked him if he was mad. "You are the only person he has never laid a hand on.[br /]
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We are all amazed by it. Do you know what he has done to me ? He used to tie me to a tree everyday for a week and beat me and even refused me food. And you run away because he scolds you !"[br /]
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Ali Akbar persuaded him to return. Ravi Shankar set his bags down in his room. By the time Baba had come to know the entire story. Baba called Ravi Shankar for lunch through Ali. Ravi Shankar went over to him, bowed and saw that Baba was cutting his photograph and putting it into a frame. No one spoke a word but Ravi Shankar knew he was moved.[br /]
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After a long silence Ravi Shankar managed to speak, "I am going today." Baba looked at him and asked, "Is that all ? I just told you to wear bangles and it has hurt you so much that you are leaving ?[br /]
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You remember in Bombay how your mother put your hand in mine and asked me to look after you as my own son ? Since then, I have accepted you as my son, and this is how you want to break it ?" Ravi Shankar had tears in his eyes for he had never seen Baba like that before. After this, neither Ravi Shankar left his revered Guru nor Baba ever vent his anger on Ravi Shankar.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar got used to the quiet, disciplined life at Maihar under Baba. He would wake up at four in the morning, have a wash, and drink a cup of tea. Then take the sitar and practice the basic scales till six. He would then bathe, say morning prayers, practice his sacred thread ceremony, and eat two boiled eggs with chappatis. Then he would practice the exercises he had learnt the previous day so that he could play well with Baba, later in the day. Ravi Shankar had to memorize everything that his Guru taught, because nothing was ever written down. Music had to be absorbed right away, by the hands and by the mind. After seven, he learnt with Baba and then practiced the same for two more hours.[br /]
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Baba knew that Ravi Shankar was mentally advanced in music but his hands lagged far behind. Ravi Shankar was tortured by this inability and used to get depressed.[br /]
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Slowly, Ravi Shankar overcame this inability and spent hours learning the basic ragas. Though Baba did not play the sitar himself he knew all the techniques of playing it and therefore taught, mostly by singing, what he wanted Ravi Shankar to play. Baba believed that by imitating the voice one got a deeper insight into the raga. To learn the correct finger strokes for plucking, Ravi Shankar first learnt the spoken syllable. This made learning easy some times as Baba sat with his sarod and played what he wanted Ravi Shankar to learn. But, Ravi Shankar could not adjust the tones of the sarod with that of sitar. Eventually, he designed a way to tune his sitar such that the two instruments could complement the other. These efforts were well rewarded. Baba took along Ravi Shankar to musical conferences where Ravi Shankar sat in the background while Baba played. He was permitted to perform a little in between.[br /]
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Music and learning turned the pages of time for Ravi. Baba usually taught Ravi Shankar alone but later, Ali Akbar and sometimes his sister Annapurna also joined them. After several years Baba taught the three of them together.[br /]
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They learnt beautiful ragas such as Yaman Kalyan, Bihag, Mian ki Malhar, etc. Sometimes the intensity of the raga’s grandeur brought tears to his eyes.[br /]
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Over the years, Ravi Shankar developed a close friendship with Ali Akbar. Since Maihar was a small place, nature was the only source of inspiration for Ravi Shankar. He enjoyed walks by the riverside or on the hill-side. Often, Ali Akbar accompanied him and they spent long hours talking and walking along. Ravi Shankar used to tell Ali about his rendezvous in Europe and Ali shared his thoughts with Ravi Shankar. Then they would return home, have dinner and practice. Ravi Shankar was amazed at the progress Ali Akbar had made in his music lessons. Earlier Akbar had no inclination for sarod but mastered it due to Baba’s insistence. Ali Akbar told him that he was forced to practice for 14 to 16 hours everyday. When his progress was not up to the mark, Baba tied him to a tree for hours and let him go hungry. Because of Ali Akbar’s innate musical talent and riyaz (practice), he became one of the greatest instrumentalists today.[br /]
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[b]The Touring Days[/b][br /]
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A year passed with Ravi Shankar helping Baba (Ustad Allaudin Khan), acting as his guide and interpreter and special companion. This affection probably arose from the fact that he missed his son Ali Akbar who was two years older to Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar took good care of Baba while traveling. On one occasion, Ravi Shankar wanted to please him and since Baba enjoyed smoking, bought him a pipe and a pouch of tobacco. This infuriated Baba. "I’m not one of those gurus you can buy," he raged.[br /]
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On other occasions Baba was tender with Ravi Shankar. Baba recognized his burning zeal to learn instrumental music, so he began teaching him the basics of the sitar and violin. At the same time he was irritated by Ravi Shankar’s preoccupation with dance and his extravagant life full of luxury and glitter. He was convinced that Ravi Shankar would not be able to learn music in such an environment that lacked discipline and complete dedication. Sometimes he also teased him calling him a ‘butterfly’ and made remarks about Ravi Shankar’s flirting, dandy dressing tastes and interests other than music. Baba believed that Ravi Shankar’s dancing, painting, reading and writing together would take him nowhere. According to Baba, he first had to master one art, then the others would come easily. Yet, Baba loved to teach Ravi Shankar music and this he knew very well.[br /]
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Uday Shankar’s troupe was globetrotting now. He began to explore new themes and was working on new ballets. It was the summer of 1936, at a beautiful spacious house in England, where Uday and the entire troupe stayed which gave Ravi Shankar a lot of spare time to practise the sitar, under Baba’s guidance. He played the scales and practiced musical exercises for the first time. He then learnt fixed compositions and many other songs. Some mysterious musical nectar seemed to be collecting inside Ravi Shankar, beckoning him to take a plunge into its realms. The fall came too soon. Baba had to return to India. The whirlpool of thoughts inside Ravi Shankar began lashing against the rocks of indecision, throwing him sometimes on the shores of fame and luxury and at times on the shores of musical realization, dedication and perfection. Ravi Shankar had to decide between staying with Uday’s troupe and giving it all up and going away with Baba to learn music. The dilemma persisted in Ravi Shankar’s mind for months. Ravi Shankar remembered Baba’s words that although he had talent, he could learn music only if he gave up the glitter and pomp of a comfortable life in Europe. To learn music he had to leave all this and go with Baba to Maihar and spend years with him. Baba had also expressed serious doubts if Ravi Shankar would abandon all the glitz and glamour of the Western life.[br /]
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Baba’s departure and his dilemma pushed Ravi Shankar to react in his own way. He put aside the sitar in favor of the sarod and immersed himself in dancing, which also earned him praise.[br /]
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That same year, life dealt another harsh blow to Ravi Shankar. The news of his mother’s death arrived. He remembered how she had grown sad and weak since she returned to India after 1932. Ravi Shankar was her close companion. He remembered all the pleasant times they had spent together. Now, only memories remained.[br /]
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[b]Moving Ahead[/b][br /]
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Ravi Shankar spent many years with Baba and eventually married his daughter Annapurna. He had to live with Baba, though he did not feel comfortable in this setting. Ravi Shankar had to manage his expenses except food and shelter now. Faced with financial problems, Baba granted him permission to perform alone at small music festivals and he accompanied Baba during concert tours. Initially, he just played the tamboura, but later played few notes on the sitar. This exposure helped Ravi Shankar perform on stage much earlier than his counterparts. During these years Ravi Shankar also performed with Ali Akbar at music concerts and joined Uday Shankar’s troupe on tours but he felt somewhat reluctant to go back to dance all over again.[br /]
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Many other opportunities were sought and through Baba, Ravi Shankar got an opportunity to give recitals for All India Radio in Lucknow. Twice a week in two months, Ravi Shankar traveled to Lucknow for the performances. Various styles of presentation and varied length of pieces changed the pitch that Ravi Shankar played.[br /]
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In 1944, with the spark of building a career in his heart, Ravi Shankar left Baba’s place with his wife and three-year-old son Subhendra for Bombay. Though Baba did not want him to leave, Ravi Shankar knew something else was beckoning him. However, he visited Baba every three months till 1949, after which the visits became occasional.[br /]
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Bombay treated Ravi Shankar with the usual scorn. He struggled to be recognized as a sitar player as also to earn enough money to run a household. He created some film scores that were not commercially viable.[br /]
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Ravi, however, earned from stage performances. He got associated with various private cultural organizations that sponsored musical evenings, where distinguished artists and accompanists performed. The audiences were connoisseurs and true lovers of Indian music. Many a times the concerts went on till the wee hours. Ravi Shankar was highly inspired by such experiences.[br /]
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On one hand Bombay presented him knowledgeable and receptive audiences and on the other he came across the so-called cultured people who invited him for private performance. Ravi Shankar had to tolerate audiences who sat on comfortable sofas, smoking, drinking and carried on their spirited conversations with no regard for the artist. Ravi Shankar put up with this only because of its monetary returns, which he needed the most. But soon he decided to start his own personal campaign to clean up this scenario. He and his accompanists insisted that the audience sit on the floor, maintain silence and abstain from smoking and drinking. The audiences with their mood swings were at times flabbergasted and at times co-operative to their requests.[br /]
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Meanwhile, in 1944, Uday Shankar closed his cultural center at Almora in north India and his troupe members joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) in Bombay. They asked Ravi Shankar to do the same. A few months later Ravi Shankar joined IPTA as the music director for ballet productions. A creative outlet was now opening up for him there.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar began to enjoy his new job. He loved the group he was working with. Though they came from rich homes, they worked, learned and practised together. They were humble and without discrimination. They all took meals in a common hall. Some of his time was spent in teaching music to the young people while most of it was spent in composing music for the ballet entitled India Immortal sponsored by the Communist Party of India. It featured the cultural and political history of India. Five years at IPTA were well-spent. Ravi Shankar felt satisfied. The freedom to compose resulted in lucid outpour of music for the productions. After the fruitful completion for India Immortal, Ravi Shankar was offered to score music for two Hindi films – Dharti Ke Lal (Children of the Earth) and Neecha Nagar (The City Below). For these socio-political theme based films, he had to compose 10 to 12 songs. Ravi Shankar adopted a new approach.[br /]
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He stressed on incidental music that followed the effect of the narrative and also emphatically heightened the drama.[br /]
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Since the film did not cater to commercial tastes, it was a box-office failure, but the connoisseurs of music and film critics appreciated his new approach in handling the musical score.[br /]
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It was around 1946, the political background of India was passing through serious upheavals with the freedom struggle on. Effects of these began to show in the ‘Reformist Cultural Squads’ that existed at IPTA. Political topics overtook plays and ballets and many artists joined IPTA because of its political undertones and glamorous status rather than for the artistic opportunities provided.[br /]
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This saddened Ravi Shankar and when he could not stand the atmosphere there, he decided to quit IPTA. He and four other friends who left IPTA were offered a chance to join the Indian National Theatre. This group was preparing a ballet on Pandit Nehru’s famous book Discovery of India. Ravi Shankar and group were provided dancers, musicians fund and they began to rehearse in the summer of 1946. They performed in Delhi for an important Asian Conference as a showcase of Indian classical dance and music.[br /]
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Meanwhile, as they were also performing in Bombay, Ravi Shankar’s brothers Debendra and Rajendra joined him. All of them decided that it was high time they start their own team, free of politics. In the summer of 1947, the Indian Renaissance Artists (IRA) was formed. They improved and elaborated on the Discovery of India and were lucky to receive permission from Panditji (Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru) to perform this historical piece in dance form in 1948. The ballet envisaged the history of India from the Dravidians to Gandhi’s death and incorporated the development of Indian culture, politics and art. The ballet was a tremendous success in Bombay and Calcutta. Ravi Shankar was enfolding his creative talents as his performances matured. Some misunderstanding between his other colleagues and the three Shankar brothers, earned the IRA negative publicity and they were forced to disband.[br /]
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[b]Struggle To Success[/b][br /]
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The next few months brought the worst of struggles for Ravi Shankar, both materially and spiritually. Many artists of the India Renaissance Artists who had left other jobs to join the group had to be taken care of after its disintegration. The Shankar brothers and nearly 35 artists stayed together. Ravi Shankar’s solo performances earned him money to support them all. As offers to perform began dwindling, Ravi Shankar was forced to approach societies for performances, though he despised most of them. Ravi Shankar was fast losing strength, hope, and will then. He felt his being as an entity and as an artist, crumbling.[br /]
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The fear of failure reigned supreme. Many a time he felt like committing suicide. He had also prepared a similar note addressed to his brother Rajendra, and one for the police, stating he was solely responsible for his death. When doomsday arrived, Ravi Shankar received news from a friend, saying that the Prince of Jodhpur had come to Bombay and wanted to hear him play. Ravi Shankar had met the prince earlier at the college of the Prince, in Ajmer when he had accompanied Baba for a recital. The fact that he was going to be offered large sum of money, he decided to go. The performance was scheduled for an evening.[br /]
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That morning he took his sitar and began practicing half-heartedly. When he felt the sitar between his fingers he was overpowered by the thought, that it was going to be his last concert. He visualized the people who would mourn after his death, were of course the people he loved and cared for.[br /]
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He then began practicing when he heard a knock at his door. An humble looking person said he was traveling with his Guru who wanted to go to the washroom. He recognized Ravi Shankar and his sitar and apologized for having disturbed him. Ravi Shankar dried his tears and asked him a few questions. He learned that the guru was a Mahatma (great soul) name Tat Baba. Hearing his name he got up because he had heard of Tat Baba that he was a renowned yogi.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar forgot about the Maharaja, the money and in the evening played the sitar for Tat Baba. Baba was totally absorbed in the music. Ravi Shankar was deeply inspired by Baba’s presence.[br /]
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The music went on for an hour and half when Ravi Shankar realized Baba was in a trance. When Baba came to consciousness, he took Ravi Shankar to the adjoining room and spoke to him. He said that the test of life were sometimes strangely hard, especially when one came across cruel faces and envious men. He asked him to wipe off all his worries for things would turn for the better. Baba’s words astonished Ravi Shankar when he said, "The money you missed tonight will come back to you many times over." He further looked deep into Ravi Shankar’s eyes and said, "Don’t do anything foolish, have patience."[br /]
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Ravi Shankar learnt that Tat Baba was trikal giyani, meaning he had the knowledge of the past, present and the future and that Baba had gone through all seven stages of attainment or siddhi. Ravi Shankar was skeptical at first, but gradually realized that all that he had heard about Tat Baba was true. He also deeply felt Baba’s immense charisma. Ravi Shankar was accepted as Baba’s disciple after a little ceremony. They began to see each other often and Ravi Shankar began to realize that offers and money had begun to flow in. Even the minor hearing problem that Ravi Shankar had from childhood disappeared and Ravi Shankar felt a new inner power glow within him.[br /]
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Later, Ravi Shankar came across various such miracles related to Tat Baba, which did not surprise him anymore. Ravi Shankar also met Swami Vivekananda, Mata Anandamayi and wished to meet Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharishi. He had the opportunity to perform amidst religious icons like Maharishi Yogi and Saint Shankaracharya of Kamakoti Peetham in Madras.[br /]
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During his performance in front of Sri Shankaracharya in Madras, Ravi Shankar had a spiritual experience. He had to play in the mangrove adjoining a house, in the scorching sun at high noon. Shankaracharya, Alla Rakha and he were seated on a mat spread out for them. When Ravi Shankar started to play quietude set around. He could not feel the heat, his sitar never went out of tune due to the heat, and was undisturbed by crawling ants. All he could hear was the noise of the elephant’s trunk that swept the grass. And Shankaracharya was lost in a deep trance engrossed in the mellifluous strains of the sitar.[br /]
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[b]Music For AIR[/b][br /]
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Towards the end of 1948, Ravi Shankar was offered a twin job at the All India Radio (AIR), the government sponsored radio broadcasting network in New Delhi. He was appointed director of music for the External Service Division and as the composer – conductor for their proposed new instrumental ensemble. Ravi Shankar took the job because he could now work on creative and experimental lines and because never was any performing artist offered such responsibility, respect, and high position in a government organization. Ravi Shankar shifted to New Delhi where he helped the program executive and program assistant in planning all musical productions for the External Service Program whose broadcasts were beamed to countries of Europe, Middle East, Africa, South-East Asia, and the Far East.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar enjoyed the encouragement he got at AIR and also the composition of incidental music for musical dramas and plays.[br /]
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His experience with the ensemble of Uday’s troupe in Europe motivated him to compose ballet music and film scores. Ravi Shankar was determined to experiment in composing pieces that predominantly had the typical Indian flavor, character, and sound quality. He developed his original compositions. One of his methods was to take a raga and treat it with such classical purity and treatment, having the entire ensemble play it as if it were being improvised. The effect was breathtaking and innovative. There was no counter point or harmony in these compositions nor were all the instruments played together simultaneously. He took full advantage of the range of every instrument individually or complementing with other instruments at various points in the score. When his musicians began to understand what Ravi Shankar was doing they became confident of their playing and at times, Ravi Shankar asked them to improvise on the spot.[br /]
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Another method of composition that Ravi Shankar tried was to compose pieces based on light ragas like Piloo, Kafi and Khamaj. Maintaining the spirit of the ragaas, the base for romantic melody with lively rhythm, he composed lovely melodies.[br /]
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His compositions based on pure folk styles using regional tunes were a major hit. At AIR, Ravi Shankar also composed thematic music : one on the life of Buddha, fairy tales for children, episodes from Indian history etc. He also orchestrated well-known poems of Tagore.[br /]
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After a three-year stint at External services of AIR, Ravi Shankar was shifted to Home Services Division at AIR. Here he had to organize a larger ensemble known as Vadya Vrinda or the National Orchestra. It consisted of large ensemble with different western instruments from the violin family. It was here that Ravi Shankar’s orthodox attitudes about not using western instruments, began to change as his musical senses matured. He realized that western instruments, especially the violin could portray Indian music most beautifully and many Indian musicians had experimented successfully, especially the South Indian Carnatic musicians. Thus, Ravi Shankar included the violin family into his creative ensemble for various types of orchestral compositions.[br /]
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[b][b]Music For The Silver Screen[/b][/b][br /]
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During his tenure at AIR, Ravi Shankar had the golden opportunity to compose film scores for films not only from India but also from the West. Noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s Bengali film Pather Panchali, was musically adorned by Ravi Shankar. The music was internationally acclaimed and the film became a classic in the world of cinema. Ravi Shankar also scored music for two other Ray films, which completed the trilogy with Pather Panchali.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar also scored music for the film Kabuliwala, which won a special prize for music at the Berlin Music Festival.[br /]
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His presence was noticed when he went to the USSR for an important music conference. Many people looked at him and remarked he resembled Pushkin. Europeans marveled at his striking resemblance to Pushkin and to Ravi Shankar’s wonder, he was even offered a role to play Pushkin by a film director.[br /]
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[b]Crossing National Boundaries[/b][br /]
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Ravi Shankar left All India Radio in 1956 to go abroad. The same time his marriage with Annapurna had also its own straining moments. With the help of an European agent, a few concerts were organized in London and other cities of England. While on tour, Ravi Shankar was accompanied by Chatur Lal on the tabla and N C Mullick took care of Ravi Shankar’s sitar, which he had constructed himself. Another set of concerts was arranged by Indian students organizations in Germany and other European countries. The first few concerts were taxing because Ravi Shankar and his group were not paid enough, had to live economically, since they were not well organized nor publicized. But they put up with it all. Ravi Shankar was received warmly by audiences in Germany in contrast to the reception they received from audience in London.[br /]
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In October 1956, Ravi Shankar performed at several concerts in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco in the US. His performances won appreciation from critics as well. In 1958, Ravi Shankar headed a delegation of musicians and dancers on a tour to Japan. Their six-week stay at Japan was a pleasant one. Japan’s material prosperity and advancement along with the confluence of its ancient cultural and artistic heritage amazed Ravi Shankar.[br /]
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As Ravi Shankar toured around the world, he realized that there was a growing interest and need to understand the intricacies of Indian music among people. He visited the US again in 1961-62 and later in 1964-65.[br /]
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In 1963, he performed in Europe at the Leeds Festival, Prague Spring Festival and Edinburgh Music Festival that gave a boost to Indian music in Britain. Here, for the first time newspapers presented a respectful attitude towards Indian music.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar at the same time, continued composing music. He composed two concertos for sitar and orchestra. The first was commissioned and recorded by the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre’ Prein. The second was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of another famous Indian, Zubin Mehta.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar composed ‘Raga Mala’, a garland presentation of ragas that was premiered at Lincoln Centre’s Avery Fisher Hall in April 1981.[br /]
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In March 1982, he performed a new sitar concerto at the Royal Festival Hall, London in the presence of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister of India and the United Kingdom.[br /]
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Later in 1989, Ravi Shankar celebrated his 50th year of performing where he composed and performed in the production of the Birmingham Touring Opera Company. This piece of musical theatre called Ghanashyam created history in the British Art scene.[br /]
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Performances and concerts have become an integral part of Ravi Shankar’s life. He has played at various festivals, and in front of celebrities and royal personages and continues to perform all around the world without any loss of gusto or enthusiasm.[br /]
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[b]Example Of Humility[/b][br /]
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In 1951, Ravi Shankar had the opportunity to meet a great Western musician – Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin had arrived in Delhi for several concerts and one of Ravi Shankar’s friends, Dr. Narayana Menon had held a musical gathering at his home. Yehudi experienced Indian music for the first time at Dr. Menon’s home. Ravi Shankar was awed by the manner in which Menuhin emotionally responded to the music. He showed keen interest in the technicalities of Indian music. This brief interlude blossomed into a beautiful professional and personal relationship between Ravi Shankar and Menuhin. [br /]
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Ravi Shankar heard him play Bach and Bartok at various concerts and Menuhin had the opportunity to hear various North and South Indian musicians. Yehudi was so deeply taken by Indian Music that he wanted to know more about it.[br /]
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Later in 1955, Menuhin arranged for Ravi Shankar to perform at the special India Week Celebration at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Unfortunately, Ravi Shankar could not make it, therefore he sent Ali Akbar and the young tabla player Chatur Lal instead.[br /]
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In 1958, at the UNESCO celebration and the Commonwealth Youth Festival in 1966, Ravi Shankar performed on the same stage as Menuhin but separately. It was only in the 1966, Bath Festival that they performed for the first time together. Ravi Shankar composed music for Menuhin based on Indian ragas. Though he had never played Indian music before, his efforts at perfecting it charmed Ravi Shankar.[br /]
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Another fusion composition that Ravi Shankar created was performed at the United Nations in celebration of Human Rights Day on December 10, 1967. Menuhin could grasp the spirit of the music and the audience was awed by the duo’s performance. During their rehearsals, Menuhin always sat on the floor while playing Indian music. Ravi Shankar used to compose music spontaneously and Menuhin would jot it down instantly. Ravi Shankar loved to see his uninhibited attitude and attentiveness while playing, accepting and acknowledging everything as it came. Menuhin was very enthusiastic about learning and embraced Ravi Shankar after every rehearsal. Ravi Shankar’s childhood idol and hero now calls him, his guru. Menuhin, according to Ravi Shankar, is an epitome of humility, with a burning desire for knowledge and love for Indian music, philosophy and yoga. Ravi Shankar considers him an ideal student.[br /]
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[b]Bond With The Beatles[/b][br /]
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Ravi Shankar became aware of the ‘Sitar explosion’ in early 1966 when he went to Britain. A sudden and special attraction to sitar came when the Beatles, Rolling Stones and some leading rock groups used the sitar in their ensemble of instruments. Until then, Ravi Shankar had hardly heard the names of these famous groups.He met George Harrison and Paul McCartney of the Beatles, at a friend’s house in London. To his surprise these charming, polite young men and their impressions about the sitar interested Ravi Shankar. When he asked George to show him the improvisations and experiments he had done with the sitar, George shyly denied with a childlike expression, saying it was nothing great but expressed a desire to study the sitar under him. Ravi Shankar explained to him the nuances of sitar and that years of practice was required for attaining perfection. George heeded to Ravi Shankar’s advice and arrived in India with his wife, Pattie.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar had asked him to grow a beard and moustache so that he would not be recognized at the airport and mobbed by fans in India. George did the same and no one recognized the couple despite the fact that newspapers had spread the word around. They stayed at a suite at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay under a pseudonym, but were discovered by a young pageboy. Within 24 hours, the whole of Bombay came to know about the Beatle boy in their city. Huge crowds of teenagers gathered at the hotel; headlines appeared in papers and fans flooded the hotel with their phone calls. Ravi Shankar was amazed at such a craze among youngsters. Their practice sessions were hindered by yells and catcalls for George. Finally, a press conference was called for to explain that George was not in Bombay as a Beatle but as Ravi Shankar’s disciple. Then, they left for Kashmir and Benaras to spend time in quietude and practice.[br /]
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George was an humble student and learnt how difficult it was to play the sitar. George had to return to London because he was a Beatle first. Ravi Shankar realized this and thus gave lessons to him on his visits to London during concerts and performances.[br /]
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This contact with the Beatles brought immense popularity to Ravi Shankar. He was being adored like a young singer or a movie star. Along with popularity came criticisms. Ravi Shankar was blamed for commercializing Indian music, polluting it with pop and some also criticized his own standards of playing the sitar, commenting that it was also declining. But, Ravi Shankar was confident that his music presented the correct perspective to young people around the world that promoted better understanding. Since the youth were more receptive and Ravi Shankar wanted to reach their hearts, he had to explain to them that unlike pop and rock music, Indian music could not be hailed and hooted at and that it had to be absorbed like classical music of Bach and Mozart.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar also faced the ‘Hippie’ problem. Many a young hippies became his ardent fans and Ravi Shankar had an even tougher time making them understand music. The reasons were the misconception they held about Indian music. To them, Indian music was psychedelic, spiritual and an erotic experience, which had to be experienced to its fullest only under the effect of drugs. These wrong notions had to be cleared out first. When hippies came to Ravi Shankar to learn music he was saddened to see their pale and anemic faces, shiny glazed eyes and their nervousness. Ravi Shankar was sympathetic with them, heard them out, discussed their frustrations and complaints, showed them an alternate perspective to life and explained to them the importance of discipline in music.[br /]
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Over the years many hippies have matured, tried to improve their mind sets, shed their rebellious nature, cleansed their body and mind and have immersed themselves completely into music. This has been the most satisfying experience of all, for Ravi Shankar.[br /]
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[b]Kinnara For Music[/b][br /]
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Ravi Shankar established his Kinnara School of Music in 1963, with the aim of teachinginstrumental music in the style used by the Beenkar Gharana that he had learnt from Baba. Ravi Shankar felt the need to revive the old guru-shishya parampara but with a touch of modern approach to music. Since Ravi Shankar toured the world and later settled in America, the Bombay School was shut down. However in 1967, he had established a school in Los Angeles and this school has been growing since then.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar met Carnatic classical music singer Sukanya. Their love for music brought them together and they got married in 1989. They have a daughter named Anouska. She also plays sitar and accompanies her father in many a concerts. Ravi Shankar had to face the blow of his son's death in 1992. He died of Bronchiole Pneumonia.[br /]
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The purpose of starting Kinnara in America was to give young Americans, a chance to learn the fundamentals of music before going to India for further study. The curriculum concentrates on three main disciplines – the voice, sitar and tabla, though there are some students learning flute and sarod. In addition, the knowledge about history and development of Indian music, legends of music, mythology, religion, heritage of the past, their links with the present etc. are given. All these are done through talks, lectures, demonstrations, books, periodicals etc. This school is just a step towards realization of Ravi Shankar’s cherished dream about an ashram – like institution with studies in philosophy and scriptures along with music where the students would follow strict discipline of Brahmacharya, respecting the great Indian tradition.[br /]
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The strings of the sitar beckon your attention, its strains touch your soul. You wonder who the maestro is, who has created such lucid, inspirational grandeur; who has woven this musical whirlpool of concentric notes, that reach the heights of ecstasy. Pandit Ravi Shankar – the legendary sitarist, composer, and an esteemed musical ambassador of Indian music. The melodious strains of his sitar have carried the glory of Indian classical music across the seven seas.[br /]
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After years of dedicated training under his illustrious Guru Baba Allaudin Khan, he set about his global task. Ravi Shankar has always been ahead of his times and has always improvised and experimented new realms of music. He has worked with known artists from around the world and from versicolored musical genres. Ravi Shankar inspires youth and his soulful sitar has helped many a hippie turn a new leaf. His approach to music and music teaching has gained popularity among other musicians, and thus reached the hearts of millions of music lovers.[br /]
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His dedication, perseverance, clarity of vision, enthusiasm brought to him world fame and the Bharat Ratna award has added a sparkle to his success.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar has faced criticism as well as admiration from the world. This enlightened music maestro, the music composer par excellence, continues to enrich the world with music – the true mantra of life.[br /]
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[b]April 7, 1920[/b] Ravi Shankar was born.[br /]
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[b]1930[/b] Left for Paris to join eldest brother Uday’s dance troupe.[br /]
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[b]1932[/b] Troupe made American debut.[br /]
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[b]1934[/b] Returned to India after their tour.[br /]

Death of father.[br /]

Another tour to Europe.[br /]
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[b]1936[/b] Death of his beloved mother.[br /]

Went to Maihar and becomes disciple of Ustad Allaudin Khan.[br /]
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[b]1941[/b] Married Annapurna Devi.[br /]
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[b]1942[/b] Birth of his son.[br /]
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[b]1944[/b] Left Maihar to seek a career in Bombay.[br /]

Joined Indian People’s Theater Association (IPTA) in Bombay.[br /]
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[b]1947[/b] Formed the Indian Renaissance Artists.[br /]

Met Tat Baba for the first time.[br /]
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[b]1948[/b] Accepted the twin jobs at All India Radio.[br /]
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[b]1956[/b] Left All India Radio and the beginning of a continuous flourishing musical career.[br /]
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[b]1963[/b] Established Kinnara School of Music in Bombay.[br /]
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[b]1967[/b] Established Kinnara School in Los Angeles.[br /]

Ever since Ravi Shankar has composed, performed, won awards and carried Indian music the world over.[br /]
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[b]1989[/b] Married Sukanya, a Carnatic singer.[br /]
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[b]1992[/b] Death of his son.[br /]
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• Without intense study of our tradition and culture, the music would appear false and synthetic.[br /]
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• Because the growth of music and dance is so linked to the past, often I feel that I am closer to the past than to the present.[br /]
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• I have felt a strong desire, almost like a missionary’s zeal, to bring the beautiful, rich, and ancient heritage of our classical music to the West.[br /]
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• A guru should respond to the efforts of the disciple and love him almost as his own child.[br /]
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• Sadly, the feeling of humility is lacking today in many young people, in the East and West alike.[br /]
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• I do not believe that if someone cannot be a performer, he can always be a teacher.[br /]
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• To be a good teacher, one has to be a good student; and even then, teaching is an art in itself.[br /]
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• It is a great pity that the beautiful relationship between the guru and shishya is fast disappearing.[br /]
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• When listening to music alien to one’s own one, must keep an open mind.[br /]
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• With open ears and an open mind, the receptive listener will be introduced to a whole new world of music, a new concept of sound, and thus to a widening horizon of art and people of life itself.[br /]
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• Every instrumental musician must undergo rigorous training of the voice. This should give the artist a thorough insight into the ragas and make him more sensitive to music.[br /]
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Ravi Shankar’s efforts at composing music and taking it to the people have been well rewarded. Here is the list of awards and titles he received during his musical journey :[br /]
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[b]1981[/b][br /]

Received the Padma Vibhushan.[br /]
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[b]1985[/b][br /]

French Commandeur del’ Ordre des Arts et des Letters.[br /]
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[b]1986[/b][br /]

Nominated as the member of Rajya Sabha and served a six-year term.[br /]
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[b]1991[/b][br /]

Grand Prize at Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes.[br /]
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[b]1999[/b][br /]

On January 15, he received the highest Indian civilian award the Bharat Ratna. The same year he won the Indo-American Society Award – for lifetime achievement. Ravi Shankar joined Mother Teresa as the only person to be honored by this award. He was also awarded the International Prize for Film and Media by German Govt. Art and Exhibition Centre the same year.[br /]
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[b]2000[/b][br /]

He was awarded Commandeur de la legion d Honneur - the highest French civilian award.[br /]
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[b]2001[/b][br /]

He was awarded Honorary Knight Commander by KBE.[br /]
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[b]2002[/b][br /]

Nominated for Grammy in 'Best World Music Album' Category for his live recording, "Full Cirle/Carnegie Hall 2000".[br /]
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He has won Desikottam (a prestigious award of southern India), the Magsaysay Award from Manila, two Grammys, the Crystal Award from Davos, Switzerland and 14 Honorary Doctorates from Universities spread all over the world.[br /]
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