Ravi Shankar: A Musical Portrait
This is a special Ganges to the Nile program on Ravi Shankar, India’s great sitarist and composer. Ganges to the Nile was hosted and produced by David Barsamian on KGNU from 1978-85. This 2-CD set explores the wide range and versatility of maestro Shankar. A veritable musical bridge linking East and West, he was a seminal figure in twentieth century world culture. Almost singlehandedly he made the rich traditions of Indian music part of our global cultural tapestry. Among the ragas and other pieces you will hear, along with Barsamian’s instructive narrative, are Jaijaivanti, Puriya Kalyan, Desh, Tilang with Yehudi Menuhin, the theme from the film Gandhi, Nat Bhairavi with Jean-Pierre Rampal, movements from his sitar concerti conducted by Andre Previn and Zubin Mehta, and Rokudan, a Japanese folk tune. Program host Barsamian brings his long study of and involvement in Indian music to this program. He studied sitar with maestro Debu Chaudhuri.
Ravi Shankar was born in Benares in 1920. The youngest brother of the great dancer Uday Shankar, he accompanied his brother’s dance troupe to Paris. Under Uday’s guidance he became more and more involved in performance, dancing, and playing various instruments in the troupe’s ensemble. When he was 15, Allauddin Khan, a sarod maestro, joined the company. Sensing his potential, Allauddin Khan, urged him to abandon the glamour of life in Europe and seriously study the sitar. Ravi left the company and returned to a small village in India and became Allauddin Khan’s disciple. He dedicated himself to many long years of study and practice. Upon completion of his studies and with his teacher’s blessings, Ravi Shankar embarked first in India then in Europe, Asia and the U.S. upon one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of contemporary music. Ravi Shankar made his U.S. debut in 1956 in New York to both critical and public acclaim. He was a singular phenomenon in the classical music worlds of east and west. His concerts and lectures at major colleges and universities were an integral part of his career. He also performed as soloist in his Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra, a work commissioned by the London Symphony. The New York Philharmonic commissioned him to write a second concerto, “Garland of Ragas” which was premiered with Zubin Mehta conducting. Ravi Shankar also composed extensively for the ballet and film in India, Europe, and the U.S. He did the score for Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi. He also collaborated with flutist Jean Pierre Rampal and violinist Yehudi Menuhin in several recordings. He died in 2012.