Happy 90th Birthday Ravi Shankar

Ravi Sharkar, age 90(Photo: Alexandra Ignatenko)
Ravi Sharkar, age 90(Photo: Alexandra Ignatenko)

Ravi Shankar, the internationally celebrated sitar player and composer, turned 90 today.

In addition to bringing India’s ancient musical tradition to the West, he has collaborated with many well-known musicians in our tradition, most famously perhaps with the Beatles’ George Harrison, but also with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, composer Philip Glass, conductors Andre Previn and Zubin Mehta, and he’s been an important influence on many other musicians, including Jazz legend John Coltrane.

He’s been called the first great World Musician.

Shankar toured Europe and the U.S. in the 1930s as a dancer in his older brother’s dance troupe, but it was in the 40s that he developed as a master instrumentalist on the sitar.

By the 1950s, he was touring internationally and bringing Indian music to audiences around the world. It was in the 60s that his world-wide fame spread due to his association with George Harrison, but it was Ravi Shankar’s great mastery of his instrument and his music tradition that truly warranted his recognition.

When I saw him perform in Columbus in 1988, he was still a dazzling virtuoso and a great communicator with personal warmth and charisma.

Here’s a video of him performing a much abbreviated version of a raga for network television on the Dick Cavett Show: