First-ever exhibition on Ravi Shankar in the US to be unveiled at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on April 29

Rare collection of maestro’s sitars, artifacts, photographs, Grammy awards.

AB Wire

Ravi Shankar (Courtesy of  ravishankar.org)
Ravi Shankar (Courtesy of ravishankar.org)

LOS ANGELES: When ‘Ravi Shankar: A Life In Music’, is unveiled at the Grammy Museum here, on April 29, it would mark the first exhibition in the United States to celebrate India’s most esteemed musician, who died on December 11, 2012, at La Jolla in San Diego, California.

The date, April 29, would also be the renowned sitar player and Beatles’ inspiration Ravi Shankar’s 95th birthday.

Through a collection of sitars, artifacts and rare photographs from the Shankar family, the exhibit will provide visitors with a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the Grammy-winning world music icon’s early life, the roots of his musicality and his vast impact on Western music, according to a press release.

“Ravi Shankar is as synonymous to world music as Elvis Presley is to rock and roll,” said Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the Grammy Museum, in a statetement. “Through his decades of world concert performances and the relationships he built with Western artists such as Yehudi Menuhin, Philip Glass, John Coltrane, and The Beatles, Shankar was instrumental in introducing the world to Indian music, and we are excited to introduce our visitors to the influential life of Ravi Shankar.”

On display on the Museum’s fourth floor, the exhibit will feature among other items: a collection of sitars played by Shankar, including one from the 1930s; Shankar’s Grammy Awards, including the 1972 Album Of The Year trophy for The Concert For Bangladesh; performance attire, including outfits worn at Woodstock in 1969 and the Concert for Bangladesh; the performance box from Shankar’s final concert in 2012; rare photographs from the Shankar family collection; and handwritten letters and music ideas

“The upcoming Ravi Shankar exhibition will be a privileged glimpse into a life dedicated to, and consumed by, Indian classical music, not only played on sitar, but through all forms of instruments, voice and dance,” said Olivia Harrison, wife of the late Beatles member George Harrison, who considered Shankar to be the “Godfather of World Music,” in a statement.

She added: “His orchestral compositions will be a revelation to those who are only familiar with his solo music. Ravi Shankar’s worldwide travels and friendships will also add to the multifaceted picture of his colorful life and appreciation of Western culture and knowledge of jazz, classical and popular music.”

Sukanya Shankar, Ravi Shankar’s widow, stated: “Ravi was one of a kind. He meant so much to Eastern and Western music and what they could accomplish together. He influenced musicians and touched the lives of millions all over the world not only with his incredible virtuosity, but with his ability to be so humble in the midst of such adoration. I am deeply touched by the efforts the Grammy Museum is making to showcase his life story for the world to see.”

One day before the launch, on April 28, the museum will host the screening of a short documentary film, followed by a special performance from a trio comprised of Barry Phillips on cello, Lakshay Mohan Gupta on sitar and Aayush Mohan Gupta on sarod.

The youngest son of a Bengali family, Shankar was born in 1920 in Varanasi. At age 10, he accompanied his elder brother, Uday Shankar, and his dance troupe to Paris where he attended school and absorbed the music traditions of the West. After meeting guru and multi-instrumentalist Allauddin Khan at a music conference in 1934, Shankar moved to Maihar, India, in 1938 where he studied sitar under Khan.

In 1946 Shankar went on to become music director of the New Delhi radio station All India Radio, a position he held until 1956. During his time at All India Radio, Shankar composed pieces for orchestra, mixing sitar and other Indian instruments with classical Western instrumentation.

During this time he began performing and writing music with violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Shankar’s relationship with The Beatles began in the ’60s, when he began giving sitar lessons to George Harrison, who later played the instrument on The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” Several years later in 1971 Shankar partnered with Harrison to produce the Concert for Bangladesh, which took place at Madison Square Garden in 1972 and raised funds for UNICEF.

The live recording of the concert ultimately won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Shankar received five Grammy Awards throughout his career and a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and performed at legendary U.S. music festivals including Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival. Together with composer Philip Glass and several other composers, Shankar co-composed “Orion,” which opened the 2004 Cultural Olympiad in Greece.

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