The living legend, Bharat Ratna, Pandit Ravi Shankar of the Senia Gharana (Maihar) is the most celebrated sitarist of India who has put the instrument of sitar on the international map and in the process, popularised the whole music culture of our country all over the world.
Pandit Ravi Shankar was born on 7 April 1920 in Varanasi in a wealthy family of Bengali brahmins. His elder brother Uday Shankar was a renowned dancer and choreographer. When Ravi Shankar was nine, he travelled with Uday Shankar's company of dancers and musicians to Paris. While in Paris, he
attended school, became a part of his brother's dance company and was performing on the Parisian stage as a dancer. During his childhood, Ravi Shankar travelled widely in Europe and America, had continuous exposure to the best of ballets, operas, and symphonies; an experience which was to influence him in the years to come. When he was fifteen, he met Ustad Allaudin Khan, one of the greatest musicians of India, whom Uday Shankar had invited to join his dance company. This meeting worked as a catalyst for
Ravi Shankar, who was then undecided about his career. He became his disciple, learning sitar at the feet of Ustad Allaudin Khan. On returning to India, Ravi Shankar left for Maihar to live with Ustad Allaudin Khan. While there, he underwent a rigorous training under his Guru's strict discipline and learnt the intricacies and the technique of sitar. Ravi Shankar also learnt to play other instruments like the 'Been' (North Indian Veena), Rabab, and Sursingar. In due course of time, Ravi, the little dancer had been transformed into a full-fledged sitarist. He embarked upon his musical career around 1940.
Pandit Ravi Shankar has a charismatic stage presence; an artiste gifted with a reservoir of talent and intense creativity, he casts in his audiences a magic spell. Pandit Ravi Shankar's sitar in the traditional "Tantrakari" mode gives a well-defined and minutely detailed exposition of a raga. The development of
alap is based on the ancient style of Dhrupad, and is rendered through the most resonant and powerful strokes of the mizraab in tandem with the elaborate 'meends' and 'gamakas', producing the ocean-deep sounds in the lower octave with the extra Kharaj string he has added to the instrument. The Masitkhani
and Razakhani Gats contain elaborate rhythmic patterns with highly complex taans and tihais. A purist in traditional classical music, Pandit Ravi Shankar is a modernist to the core when it comes to interacting with Western musicians. As is well known, he has initiated bold and daring creative experiments in
collaboration with world musicians.
Pandit Ravi Shankar was the first one to conduct the one hundred and ten piece vadya-vrinda (The National Orchestra) of the All India Radio. During the nationalist movement of India's freedom struggle, he composed the score of the poet Iqbal's famous lyric 'Sare jahan se achha' which every Indian sings
even today. Pandit Ravi Shankar appeared with the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin at the United Nations. He composed two concertos for the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn, and the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta with Ravi Shankar featuring in both with the sitar.
He composed music for two ballets "India Immortal" and the "Discovery of India". He also wrote for Uday Shankar's ballet "Samanya Kshati" based on Tagore's poem. Pandit Ravi Shankar has made a significant contribution towards film music too. His music in Satyajit Ray's classic trilogy "Pather
Panchali", "Aparajito", and "Apur Sansar" won him international acclaim. He received the 'Silver Bear' at the Berlin Film Festival for his music in the film 'Kabuliwala'; a special award for his 'The Chairy Tale' at the Venice Film Festival. His musical score for Lord Attenborough's "Gandhi" was recognised
all over the world. Pandit Ravi Shankar was honoured for his music direction in "Anuradha", with a President's Medal. He also scored music for "Godaan", a movie based on Munshi Premchand's novel.
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