Ravi Shankar, global ambassador for the sitar and Indian classical music, and an eminent figure in Western music too, passed away Tuesday in California. I was blessed to have seen him perform live at least 4 times in the last 10 years and was truly touched each time by his larger-than-life music and presence. RIP.
From the New York Times:
From the Wall Street Journal:Mr. 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.
His instrument, the sitar, has a small rounded body and a long neck with a resonating gourd at the top. It has 6 melody strings and 25 sympathetic strings (which are not played but resonate freely as the other strings are plucked). Sitar performances are partly improvised, but the improvisations are strictly governed by a repertory of ragas (melodic patterns representing specific moods, times of day, seasons of the year or events) and talas (intricate rhythmic patterns) that date back several millenniums.
Shankar influenced the music of the Beatles and was also the father of jazz-pop star Norah Jones (he played no role in her life when she was growing up). Another of his daughters (by another mother), Anoushka Shankar, has also built a following as a sitar player.