Sitar legend Ravi Shankar passes away (Fourth Lead)

Wed, Dec 12 2012 14:57 IST | 1 Views | Add your comment
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Washington/New Delhi, Dec 12
Manmohan Singh

Sitar maestro and composer Pandit Ravi Shankar, described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a "national treasure", died in a US hospital just a few days after a heart valve replacement surgery. He was 92.

He had been admitted to the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, San Diego, near his home after he complained of breathing difficulties.

"Shankar had suffered from upper respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery (Dec 6). Though the surgery was successful, recovery proved too difficult for the 92-year-old musician," the Ravi Shankar Foundation said in a statement.

He breathed his last at 4.30 p.m. Pacific Time Tuesday.

He is survived by his wife Sukanya Rajan and daughters Anoushka and Norah Jones, and three grandchildren. He also had a son, Shubhendra Shankar, from his first wife Annapurna Devi. Shubhendra died in 1992.

Sukanya and Anoushka were by his side when the end came.

"As you all know, his health has been fragile for the past several years. On Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life.

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away," they said in a statement.

Manmohan Singh described his death as the passing away of an era. He said in New Delhi Wednesday that Shankar was a "national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage".

"The nation joins me to pay tributes to his unsurpassable genius, his art and his humility," the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a message on micro-blogging site Twitter.

Tributes poured in from others as well. Politicians, musicians, dancers and other artists remembered the legend that was Ravi Shankar.

His last public performance was just over a month ago in California, where despite failing health he performed with Anoushka, an accomplished sitarist.

Active till the end, the three-time Grammy Award winner had been nominated yet again.

According to his foundation, news that his album The Living Room Sessions, Part 1 received a 2013 Grammy nomination reached him just the night prior to his surgery.

Dubbed the "godfather of world music" by George Harrison of the Beatles, Shankar was born in Varanasi on April 7, 1920.

He spent his youth touring Europe and India with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing in 1938 to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan.

A performer, composer, teacher and writer, Shankar's pioneering work took Indian music to the West.

After finishing his studies in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, creating the music for the "Apu Trilogy" by Satyajit Ray and Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi".

For the "Gandhi" film, he shared with George Fenton an Oscar for best original score in 1983.

After working as music director of All India Radio, New Delhi, from 1949 to 1956, he made Indian classical music popular in the west in the 1960s through teaching, performance, and his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison.

George Harrison produced and participated in two record albums, "Shankar Family & Friends" and "Festival of India", both composed by Ravi Shankar.

Shankar engaged Western music by writing concerti for sitar and orchestra and toured the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

From 1986 to 1992, he served as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.

The much awarded Shankar was given India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999.

His main companion for decades was dancer Kamala Shastri. He also had a relationship with New York concert producer Sue Jones, with whom he fathered singer Norah Jones.

Son "Shubho" Shankar was also a musician who often toured with him. He passed on the baton as it were to his daughter Anoushka.

On learning of Shankar's death, India's ambassador to US Nirupama Rao tweeted: "Pandit Ravi Shankar. Mourn passing of a musical genius and gentle soul. Attended his last concert Nov in Calif. He played with such passion.

"His last concert was particularly poignant. Anoushka and he played together in perfect unison. A torch was passed," she said.

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