Pt. Ravi Shankar’s legacy is a testament to the power of music to transcend cultural boundaries and touch the human soul. His life was a rich tapestry of artistic brilliance, cultural exchange, and spiritual exploration. As we delve deeper into these lesser-known aspects of his life, we gain a greater appreciation for the maestro who mastered the sitar and bridged worlds through his music

Here are ten intriguing facts about Pt. Ravi Shankar that will deepen your appreciation of his life and work.

Child Prodigy with a Dance Background:

Pt.Ravi Shankar was a dancer before becoming a world-renowned sitarist. As a child, he toured Europe with his brother Uday Shankar’s dance troupe, performing traditional Indian dance. This early exposure to different cultures and artistic forms enriched his musical sensibilities and helped him develop a unique style that blended traditional Indian music with global influences.

Under the tutelage of a Guru:

Pt. Ravi Shankar’s journey with the sitar began at 18 when he became a disciple of Ustad Allauddin Khan, one of the greatest figures in Indian classical music. Shankar lived with Khan’s family in Maihar, Madhya Pradesh, for seven years, learning not only the technical aspects of the sitar but also the spiritual and emotional depth of Indian classical music. This guru-shishya (teacher-student) relationship profoundly shaped his approach to music.

A Beatles Connection:

One of the most fascinating aspects of Pt. Ravi Shankar’s career is his connection with The Beatles. George Harrison, the band’s lead guitarist, became Shankar’s student in the 1960s. This relationship introduced the sitar to a global audience and sparked a cross-cultural musical exchange that influenced Western pop music profoundly. Thanks to Shankar’s influence, songs like “Norwegian Wood” and “Within You Without You” showcase the sitar’s mesmerizing sound.

A Cultural Ambassador:

Pt.Ravi Shankar wasn’t just a musician but a cultural ambassador who played a significant role in popularizing Indian music worldwide. He performed at prestigious venues like the Royal Albert Hall in London and Carnegie Hall in New York, often collaborating with Western musicians. His performances at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 are legendary, highlighting his commitment to using music for humanitarian causes.

Composer for Film and Ballet:

Shankar’s talents were not confined to live performances. He also composed music for films and ballets. Notably, he scored the music for Satyajit Ray’s acclaimed Apu Trilogy, which won international acclaim. His ability to evoke deep emotions through his compositions added a new dimension to the cinematic experience, earning him accolades and further solidifying his reputation as a versatile artist.

Grammy Award Winner:

Pt. Ravi Shankar’s contributions to music have been recognized with several prestigious awards, including three Grammy Awards. His album “West Meets East” with violinist Yehudi Menuhin won a Grammy in 1967, marking a milestone in cross-cultural musical collaboration. His recordings have left a lasting legacy, inspiring musicians across genres and generations.

A Family of Musicians:

Music runs in the Shankar family. Pt. Ravi Shankar’s daughter, Anoushka Shankar, is an accomplished sitarist in her own right, carrying forward her father’s legacy. His other daughter, Norah Jones, is a successful singer-songwriter who has won multiple Grammy Awards. This musical lineage underscores the profound impact of Shankar’s artistry on his family and the world.

Author and Educator:

Pt.Ravi Shankar was also a prolific writer and educator. He authored several books on music, including his autobiography “Raga Mala.” Through his writings and teachings, he provided invaluable insights into the intricacies of Indian classical music, making it accessible to a global audience. His educational efforts have ensured that the rich tradition of Indian classical music continues to thrive.

Pioneer of World Music:

Long before the term “world music” became popular, Pt. Ravi Shankar blended musical traditions from different cultures. His collaborations with Western classical musicians, jazz artists, and even rock stars paved the way for a new genre celebrating musical diversity. This pioneering spirit has inspired countless artists to explore and merge different musical traditions.

A Spiritual Journey:

For Pt. Ravi Shankar, music was a spiritual journey. He often spoke about the meditative and ethereal qualities of Indian classical music. His performances were not just concerts but spiritual experiences that aimed to connect the listener with the divine. This spiritual dimension of his music continues to resonate with audiences worldwide, offering solace and inspiration.