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Beatle Harrison had described Ravi Shankar as godfather of world music

New York: Pandit Ravi Shankar was the sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s and introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over a 10-decade career. Labelled "the godfather of world
India TV News Desk December 12, 2012 15:00 IST
India TV News Desk
New York: Pandit Ravi Shankar was the sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s and introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over a 10-decade career.



Labelled "the godfather of world music" by Beatle George Harrison, Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music.

He also pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh.

To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.

His last musical performance was with his other daughter, sitarist Anoushka Shankar Wright, on November 4 in Long Beach, California; his foundation said it was to celebrate his 10th decade of creating music.

The multiple Grammy winner learned that he had again been nominated for the award the night before his surgery.

As early as the 1950s, Shankar began collaborating with and teaching some of the greats of Western music, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.

He played well-received shows in concert halls in Europe and the United States, but faced a constant struggle to bridge the musical gap between the West and the East.

His close relationship with Harrison, the Beatles lead guitarist, shot Shankar to global stardom in the 1960s.

Harrison had grown fascinated with the sitar, a long necked, string instrument that uses a bulbous gourd for its resonating chamber and resembles a giant lute.

He played the instrument, with a Western tuning, on the song "Norwegian Wood," but soon sought out Shankar, already a musical icon in India, to teach him to play it properly.

The pair spent weeks together, starting the lessons at Harrison's house in England and then moving to a houseboat in Kashmir and later to California.

Gaining confidence with the complex instrument, Harrison recorded the Indian-inspired song "Within You Without You" on the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," helping spark the raga-rock phase of 60s music and drawing increasing attention to Shankar and his work.

Shankar's popularity exploded, and he soon found himself playing on bills with some of the top rock musicians of the era.

He played a four-hour set at the Monterey Pop Festival and the opening day of Woodstock.

Though the audience for his music had hugely expanded, Shankar, a serious, disciplined traditionalist who had played Carnegie Hall, chafed against the drug use and rebelliousness of the hippie culture.