NEW DELHI: Legendary Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, who influenced musicians ranging from The Beatles to violinist Yehudi Menuhin, has died aged 92 in the United States after surgery, his family said yesterday.
Shankar, the father of American singer-songwriter Norah Jones and fellow sitar star Anoushka Shankar, died on Tuesday in hospital in San Diego, California, where he had undergone an operation to replace a heart valve. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed Shankar, who popularised Indian classical music around the world, as “a national treasure and global ambassador of India’s cultural heritage”. “An era has passed away... The nation joins me to pay tributes to his unsurpassable genius, his art and his humility,” he said.
Shankar, who had houses in California and India, was born into a high-caste Bengali Brahmin family in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi in northern India on April 7, 1920. He taught close friend the late Beatle George Harrison to play the sitar and collaborated with him on several projects, including the ground-breaking Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 to raise awareness of the war-wracked nation.
Harrison called him “The Godfather of World Music” while Menuhin, himself widely considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, compared him to Mozart. Shankar, a three-time Grammy winner, was on the bill with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix at the Woodstock Festival in New York state in 1969 when 500,000 people gathered for one of the iconic cultural events of the century.
Dressed in traditional Indian clothes and always seated on the floor when playing, he was lauded by the hippie generation but he expressed reservations about the excesses of Western stars and said his priorities were music, yoga and philosophy.AFP