Washington, Dec 12 : Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a "national treasure", who bridged the gap between the East and the west in the world of music died in a US hospital. He was 92.

The end came just a few days after a heart valve replacement surgery. 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.

ukanya 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.

Paying tribute to the maestro, Time magazine recalled that in 1968, its reviewer had written "that the sheen of celebrity that the musician's association with The Beatles had created was starting to fade. In hindsight, that assessment is debatable".

"More than forty years later, Ravi Shankar is still one of the most powerful and lasting influences in music today."

The influential New York Times, in a front page story, said the Indian sitarist and composer's "collaborations with Western classical musicians as well as rock stars helped foster a worldwide appreciation of India's traditional music".

"Shankar, a soft-spoken, eloquent man whose performance style embodied a virtuosity that transcended musical languages was trained in both Eastern and Western musical traditions," it said.

"Although Western audiences were often mystified by the odd sounds and shapes of the instruments when he began touring in Europe and the United States in the early 1950s, Mr. Shankar and his ensemble gradually built a large following for Indian music," the Times said.

The Washington Post said the Grammy Award-winning Indian sitar virtuoso had become "the world's leading representative of South Asian music, exerted a major influence on popular music in the 1960s."

"One reason Mr. Shankar's music had such influence over audiences and musicians was the otherworldly quality of its tones and rhythms; the sitar produces more tones than a guitar and is based on a different theory of music," it said.

"His music transcended trends and cultural barriers," CNN said.

"The legendary sitar player's classical career outlived his counterculture fame, but he continued to meld East with West and composed concertos, which harmonized his sitar with orchestras."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)


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