By Ratna Prabha
The demise of Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar in a San Diego hospital has plunged the musical world into deep darkness. I, as an enthusiast of Indian classical music, have been listening to his broadcasts, his CDs and his live concerts since my childhood.
He particularly popularized Indian classical music and Sitar in the Western world. Today Sitar and Ravi Shankar are synonyms. When we speak to Western musicians about Ravi Shankar they immediately mention about Sitar also. They also talk about his illustrious daughter Anoushka Shankar.
There is hardly any major university in the US or major city in the country or in the world, where Ravi Shankar had not presented his concert. He is a giant in Indian classical music and showed a way to the Westerners how the Indian classical music can be easily fit into any world music styles.
The tributes paid in the Western media to the great maestro give an impression that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones influenced Ravi Shankar more than he influenced them. This is far from the truth. Ravi Shankar might have embraced the West, but the West never influenced him.
Influenced by Ravi Shankar’s music and the Sitar, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones experimented with the Sitar and helped popularize the Indian music.
Ravi Shankar was a maestro of the Indian classical music, but he had equally excelled and produced some memorable Bollywood music. While Ravi Shankar scored wonderful music for the movie Anuradha, the contributions by lyricist Shailendra, director Hrishikesh Mukherjee and heroine Leela Naidu made it memorable.
His memories and legacy will remain forever not only in the Indian classical music but also in the world music.