Two months after death, two Grammies

Finest moment for Ravi Shankar at mecca of music awards.Bureau Report

NEW YORK: Two months after his death at the age of 92, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar had his finest moment at the mecca of music awards: he won two Grammys, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and the World Music Album, at the 55th edition of the annual extravaganza, at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles.

Shankar, who passed away in San Diego on December 11th following a heart-valve replacement surgery, beat his own daughter Anoushka Shankar – nominated for her album Traveller – and Amadou & Mariam’s Folila, Daneil Ho’s On A Gentle Island Breeze and Hugh Masekela’s Jabulani, to clinch the World Music Album Grammy, his fourth overall Grammy, apart from the Lifetime Achievement award.

Shankar, who introduced the Sitar to the Western world and made it the quintessential music instrument associated with classical Indian music, after he started playing with the Beatles and violinist Yehudi Menuhin, had previously won three Grammy awards, in 1967, 1972 and 2001.

Anoushka accepted the posthumous award, saying, “It’s OK to lose to your father.” Her mother, Sukanya, was in attendance, but did not take the stage.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded a day prior to the Grammies at a special ceremony in Los Angeles, where Anoushka and her half-sister Norah Jones, a nine-time Grammy award winner herself, accepted it together.

“When I watched him play, he could take people to this incredible meditative state where they’d close their eyes and just cry and get in touch with something more important,” Anoushka said.

“We know he was very excited to be receiving this award. We really miss him. He lived and breathed music,” said Jones, accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for her father. “I remember him drumming on the breakfast table, trying to get me to learn to play seven (beats) over five. I’m still trying to learn that. We are very happy to accept the award for him.”

Anoushka said: “It was 60 days ago today that he passed away. It’s kind of difficult to be standing up here, like Norah said, I am thrilled that he knew about this award before he passed away at least. But I wish we weren’t standing up here for him.”

Shankar was born on April 7th, 1920, in Varanasi and spent his youth touring Europe and India with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing in 1938 to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan. After finishing his studies in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, creating the music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, and was music director of All India Radio, New Delhi, from 1949 to 1956.

In 1956, he began to tour Europe and the Americas playing Indian classical music and increased its popularity there in the 1960s through teaching, performance, and his association with Menuhin and rock singer George Harrison of the Beatles. Shankar engaged Western music by writing concerti for sitar and orchestra and toured the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

From 1986 to 1992, Shankar served as a nominated member of Rajya Sabhaa. Her was awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999. He continued to perform in the 2000s, sometimes with Anoushka, including performances at the Carnegie Hall in New York City. He performed his final concert, with Anoushka, on November 4th, 2012, at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, California.

Harrison met Shankar in London in 1966 and visited India for six weeks to study sitar under Shankar in Srinagar. During the visit, a documentary film about Shankar named Raga was shot by Howard Worth, and released in 1971. Shankar’s association with Harrison greatly increased Shankar’s popularity and Ken Hunt of Allmusic would state that Shankar had become “the most famous Indian musician on the planet” by 1966.

In 1967, he performed at the Monterey Pop Festival and won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance for West Meets East, a collaboration with Menuhin. The same year, the Beatles won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which included “Within You Without You” by Harrison, a song that was influenced by Indian classical music.

Shankar opened a Western branch of the Kinnara School of Music in Los Angeles, in 1967, and published an autobiography, My Music, My Life, in 1968.

Shankar won his second Grammy in 1972, for Concert for Bangladesh, organized by Harrison in 1971. After the musicians had tuned up on stage for over a minute, the naive crowd broke into applause, to which the amused Shankar responded, “If you like our tuning so much, I hope you will enjoy the playing more”. The concert album became one of the best-selling recordings to feature the genre.

In 2001, Shankar wons his third Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 and toured with Anoushka, who released a book about her father, Bapi: Love of My Life, in 2002.

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