Pandit Ravi Shankar is a living legend who is a genius Sitar player. Born on 7th April, 1920 in Banaras, his family was a Bengali Brahmin family who named him Ravindra Shankar. Shyam Shankar, his father, was a barrister. He had an elder brother Uday Shankar who was a famous Indian classical dancer. In his younger years, Ravi played Sitar the dance troupe of Uday Shankar, especially with Anna Pavlova. In 1938, he studied under his guru, Allaudin Khan. The dedication and determination shows in the fact that Ravi Shankar's career span extends over six decades and has been recorded in the Guinness World Record as the longest international career. An account of his fascinating life history is given here as the biography of Pt. Ravi Shankar.
In the year 1939, Ravi Shankar gave his first public performance in India. His formal training concluded in the year 1944 and he moved out of Bombay. He then started a recording career with HMV's Indian affiliate and began by composing scores for films and ballets. In the 50's he became the music director of All India Radio. It was during the 50's that he became famous in the world of music outside India. He performed in Soviet Union (1953) and the West (1956). He has performed in prestigious events like Edinburgh Festival and also at important places like Royal Festival Hall, London.
In the year 1965, George Harrison, a member of the band The Beatles began experimenting with the Sitar. Consequently, the two musicians met and their interest in the Sitar made them really good friends. Ravi Shankar's career got instant boost as he came to be known as Harrison's mentor. He got many opportunities to showcase his skill as a classical musician in events like Monterey Pop Festival, California (1967) along with the tabla maestro Ustad Allah Rakha. Ravi Shankar also performed an opening act during George Harrison's U.S tour in the year 1974. George Harrison fondly calls him the Godfather of World Music.
Ravi Shankar has composed two symphony masterpieces for Sitar and orchestra; Violin and Sitar composition for Yehudi Menuhin. He has also composed music for flute maestro Jean Pierre Rampal, Japanese flute player Hozan Yamamoto and Koto (Japanese stringed instrument) player Musumi Miyashita. He has composed the musical score for movies like Charly, Chappaqua, Apu Trilogy and Gandhi. He even got nominated for an Academy Award for his composition in this movie. His recording named "Tana Mana" (1987) skillfully infuses the traditional instruments with electronics. He also composed the Sitar part in Philip Glass's composition "Orion".
Ravi Shankar has two daughters who are talented musicians themselves. Anuoshka Shankar is a famous Sitar player like her father and has won many awards. She has her own recordings and also performs frequently with her father. His other daughter is Norah Jones who is an acclaimed singer in the international arena. She has won many Grammy awards and her records sell like hot cakes. Ravi Shankar has really contributed to not just Indian music but has also made sure that music lovers here get to listen to world music as well.