Ravi Shankar (Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury), 92, three-time Grammy winner, reportedly died in San Diego (California, USA) on December 11 evening.
The death of Pandit Ravi Shankar on Dec. 11, 2012 was a reminder of how internationally renown was the 92 year-old sitar virtuoso, cultural ambassador, teacher, friend and inspiration to the world.
Shankar died in San Diego at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time, still performing after decades of uncompromising dedication to musical collaboration beyond national boundaries. Shankar’s foundation website states that he had a virtuosity in every creative endeavor and a fundamental love of Gurukul teaching of Indian classical music forms.
“Ravi was a great ambassador for Indian classical music and he brought a global fusioning of music well before global anything was the norm,” said Mukhtar Thakur, creator and executive director of Geetmala TV, Diversity in Focus TV, and co-host of Sangam radio program on KFAI Radio.
Dr. Surendra Chaudhary, father of former State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, said he and his wife Raj attended two Ravi Shankar concerts, one at the Minneapolis Guthrey Theater, and another in Iowa City, Iowa.
“Ravi Shankar is immortalized and will be remembered by whole world,” Chaudhary said. “His concerts left the audience spellbound, even if they have no knowledge of Indian classical music. He is the grand ambassador of Indian classical music to the western world.”
Chaudhary recalled that in 1967, Shankar collaborated with Yehudi Menehuin to produce a series of ‘East Meats West’ concerts including a stop at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“The whole world listened,” he added. “His sitar became a household word in America.”
The Chaudhary’s went on to establish the first Indian music radio program on KUXL in Minneapolis in 1975. Called ‘Sounds of India’, the opening theme music was a one-minute track from East meets West.
“The listeners of Minneapolis would set their alarm not to miss the program every Sunday,” Chaudhary said. “The program ran for one year. Today, the recordings of that program are part of the Minnesota History Center..
Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said in a statement from Nevada, said that it was a sad day for the music world and it was an end of an era in music.
“Ravi Shankar gave so much to the world in his lifetime through music and would continue to do so in the coming decades,” Zed said. “He was highly revered in the world of music for his intense, distinct and deeply moving music and was known for rhythmic novelties.”
Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy, said the three-time Grammy winner and renowned sitar player Shankar was a true pioneer in introducing Indian music to the West.
“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 (his daughter) Anoushka Shankar,” Portnow said. “In 1971, he helped pave the way for charity concerts, alongside George Harrison, organizing the Concert for Bangladesh, to help Bangladesh refugees.
Portnow said that just last week he informed Shankar 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,” he added. “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.”
In 1986 Ravi Shankar was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of Parliament. Deeply moved by the plight of more than eight million refugees who came to India during the Bangla Desh Freedom struggle from Pakistan, Shankar arranged a concert to collect money for the refugees with the help of George Harrison, who brought in a cast of performers that made music history.