Legendary Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar Dies at 92

Ravi Shankar
The Ravi Shankar Foundation and East Meets West Music reported the death of sitar virtuoso and influential world music performer and composer Ravi Shankar. He passed away on December 11, 2012, near his home in southern California.

Pandit Ravi Shankar was a distinguished artist who introduced Indian classical music to western audiences and also a pioneer in the fusion of eastern and western musical traditions. “Born on April 7, 1920, Shankar is an iconic figure whose influence on music and the way we hear music can hardly be overstated,” said the Ravi Shankar Foundation press release. “Shankar had suffered from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last Thursday. Though the surgery was successful, recovery proved too difficult for the 92-year-old musician.”

It is with heavy hearts we write to inform you that Pandit Ravi Shankar, husband, father, and musical soul, passed away today, December 11th, 2012,” said Sukanya & Anoushka Shankar in a family statement.

As you all know, his health has been fragile for the past several years and on Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away.

We know that you all feel our loss with us, and we thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes through this difficult time. Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music.”

A photo of Ravi Shankar in early 2012 performing in India
Photo courtesy of Red Communications
In recent months, performing, and especially touring, became progressively more difficult for the renowned Indian musician. However, health couldn’t prevent Shankar from performing with his daughter, prominent sitarist Anoushka Shankar, on November 4 in Long Beach, California. This, in what was to be his final public performance, was in reality billed as a celebration of his tenth decade of creating music.

Shankar’s need to constantly move forward led him to establish his own record label, East Meets West Music. The album The Living Room Sessions, Part 1 has received a 2013 Grammy nomination, news of which reached Shankar the night prior to his surgery.

East Meets West Music released this month a video titled Tenth Decade – In Concert: Live In Escondido. The film by cinematographer and director Alan Kozlowski presents an intimate look at a 91-year-old Ravi Shankar performing in southern California in October 2011. The filmmaker studied music with Shankar since 1978, and has produced a documentary honoring Ravi called Sangeet Ratna and co-produced with George Harrison a collection of Ravi’s work called In Celebration.

Three-time GRAMMY winner and renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar was a true pioneer in introducing Indian music to the West,” said Neil Portnow, President and CEO of The Recording Academy. “He influenced artists across classical, jazz, pop, rock, and world music genres, including the Beatles, John Coltrane, Philip Glass, and his daughters, Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar. In 1971, he helped pave the way for charity concerts, alongside George Harrison, organizing the Concert for Bangladesh, to help Bangladesh refugees. Just last week, I had the honor to inform him that he would receive a 2013 Lifetime Achievement this February. He was deeply touched and so pleased, that he extended a gracious and personal invitation to visit with him at his home. We have lost an innovative and exceptional talent and a true ambassador of international music. Our thoughts and sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends and all of those around the world who were inspired by his music and compassionate philanthropy.”

Ravi Shankar maintained residences in both India and the United States. He is survived by his wife Sukanya; daughter Anoushka Shankar Wright; daughter Norah Jones; 3 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.

Memorial plans will be announced. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Ravi Shankar Foundation. Donations can be made online at JustGive.org.

For more information about Ravi Shankar read this review of a recent concert in India and an artist profile written by our Bangalore-based collaborator, Madanmohan Rao:

http://worldmusiccentral.org/2012/02/15/a-historic-concert-pandit-ravi-shankar-bids-farewell-to-bangalore

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