Ravi Shankar

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Shankar, Ravi

(Robindra Shankar Chowdhury), 1920–2012, Indian sitarist and composer, b. Varanasi. He was the first Indian instrumentalist to attain an international reputation and is credited with introducing traditional Indian music to the West. As a youth Shankar was a noted solo dancer with his brother Uday's Indian dance troupe in Paris, and he studied (1938–45) with the instrumentalist Ustad Allauddin Khan, whose daughter, Annapurna, he later married. Proficient on many instruments, Shankar became a virtuoso of the sitarsitar
, fretted string instrument with a gourdlike body and a long neck, similar to the lute. It has from 3 to 7 gut strings, tuned in fourths or fifths (or both), and a lower course of 12 wire strings that vibrate sympathetically with the first set.
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, and in 1957 he made the first of several concert tours of the United States. In 1962 he founded the Kinnara School of Music in Mumbai. George Harrison of the BeatlesBeatles, The,
English rock music group formed in the late 1950s and disbanded in 1970. The members were John (Winston) Lennon, 1940–80, guitar and harmonica; (James) Paul McCartney, 1942–, guitar and piano; George Harrison,
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 studied (1965) sitar with Shankar, and the band's recordings began featuring the instrument. Other rock groups followed suit, and for a time the sitar was a rock instrument. As the foremost sitar player, Shankar was catapulted to fame. His 1967 concert tour of the United States was a great success, and he was invited to hold classes at U.S. colleges and universities.

From the 1980s on Shankar also explored the possibilities of merging Indian music with electronic synthesizer and emulator technology. Among Shankar's many compositions are the scores for the motion pictures Pather Panchali (1954), Charly (1968), and Gandhi (1982) as well as ballets and concerti for sitar and orchestra. He collaborated with such musicians as violinist Yehudi MenuhinMenuhin, Yehudi
, 1916–99, British violinist and conductor, b. New York City. Menuhin, an extraordinary prodigy, began playing the violin at four. He made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at seven, then studied in Europe with Adolf Busch and Georges
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 and jazz saxophonist John ColtraneColtrane, John
, 1926–67, American jazz musician, b. Hamlet, N.C. He began playing tenor saxophone as an adolescent. Coltrane worked with numerous big bands before emerging in the mid-1950s as a major stylist while playing as a sideman with Miles Davis.
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 and also with composer Philip GlassGlass, Philip,
1937–, American composer, b. Baltimore. Considered one of the most innovative of contemporary composers, he was a significant figure in the development of minimalism in music. Glass attended the Univ. of Chicago, Juilliard (M.A.
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 on the electronic recording Passages (1990). Shankar also served (1986–92) in India's parliament. His daughter, Anoushka Shankar, 1981–, who studied with him, also is a virtuoso sitarist.

Bibliography

See his autobiographies (1969 and 1997); biography (2002) by A. Shankar (his daughter); D. Ghosh, ed., The Great Shankars: Uday, Ravi (1983); John Musilli, dir., Ravi Shankar and Friends (documentary, 1976).