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Famous India > Famous India People > Pandit Ravi Shankar
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Pandit Ravi Shankar

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"Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift and through him I have added a new dimension to my experience of music. To me, his genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of MOZART'S."
- Yehudi Menuhin

"Ravi Shankar is the Godfather of World Music"
- George Harrison

Born on April 7, 1920, at Varanasi (also Benaras) in Uttar Pradesh into an orthodox, well-off Bengali Brahmin family, Pandit Ravi Shankar is a Sita Maestro and one of the most famed legends of the 20th century.

The legendary Sitarist and composer have contributed enormously to the world music institution and has added numerous golden page to the history of Indian classical music. The tune of this sitar crossed the seven seas. As long time admirer, fellow musician, student and ex-Beatles guitarist, George Harrison opines, " Ravi Shankar is the Godfather of world music."

Initially, Pandit Ravi Shankar made his foray into the world of performing arts as a dancer (He had also danced in his elder brother Uday Shankar's dance troupe), in due course of time took patronage in Sitar under the Ustad Allauddin Khan (founder of the Maihar gharana of Indian classical music), the architect of 20th century Indian classical music. Under the guidance of legendary Ustad Allaudin Khan, Ravi Shankar had to undergo rigorous trials, which resulted in the creation of another great legend - the Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.

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He began giving public recitals in 1939, ending his training in 1944. He toured and wrote for films and ballet. He also began his recording career around this time and worked with All India Radio followed - as music director from February 1949 to January 1956 in New Delhi. At the same time he was making his first steps towards international stardom. In 1954 he performed in the Soviet Union. In 1956 he played his debut solo concerts in Western Europe and the U.S. Within a decade he became the most famous Indian musician on the planet.

Pt. Ravi Shankar has written two concertos for sitar and orchestra, violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal, music for Hosan Yamamoto, master of the Shakuhachi and Musumi Miyashita - Koto virtuoso, and collaborated with Phillip Glass (Passages). George Harrison produced and participated in two record albums, "Shankar Family & Friends" and "Festival of India" composed by Pt. Ravi Shankar. He has composed extensively for films and ballets in India, Canada, Europe and the United States, including Charly, Gandhi and Apu Trilogy.

Honors & Awards
Pandit Ravi Shankar has received many awards and honors from his own country and from all over the world, including fourteen doctorates, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam, the Magsaysay Award from Manila, two Grammy's, the Fukuoka grand Prize from Japan, the Crystal award from Davos, with the title 'Global Ambassador' to name some. He is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a member of the United Nations International Rostrum of composers.

Pt. Ravi Shankar's contribution to World Music is invaluable. A classical musician, he has not been afraid to experiment, and his music has influenced Western pop since the 1960's. As a testament to the fervent interest in his music from hippie audiences, Shankar was invited to perform at two of the '60s biggest rock festivals, Monterey Pop and Woodstock. In the '70s, he also participated in Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh.

The love and respect he commands both in India and in the West is unique in the annals of the history of music. As a performer, composer, teacher and writer, he has done more for Indian music as compared to any other musician. He is well known for his pioneering work in bringing Indian music to the West.

Personal Facts
Shankar's daughters Anoushka Shankar, and Norah Jones are also talented multi-grammy award winning musicians. Shankar married twice, and Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar are half-sisters.

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