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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Google doodle celebrates Sitar maestro Pundit Ravi Shankar's birthday

Can you identify this famous dancer….

In 1966, the famous Beatles, George Harrison befriended him  and began to take lessons from him. This association catapulted him  to international fame.  The Beatles’ guitarist then went to India for six weeks.

Here is something extracted from his website.  …..  the "talas" or "rhythmic cycles" of a raga have  unique intricacy and rhythmic sophistication in Indian music. There are talas ranging from a 3 beat cycle to 108 beats within a cycle! The most popular talas are those which have 5,6,7,8,10,12,14, and 16 beats to a cycle. Indian classical music is principally based on melody and rhythm, not on harmony, counterpoint, chords, modulation and the other basics of Western classical music.

The system of Indian music known as Raga Sangeet can be traced back nearly two thousand years to its origin in the Vedic hymns of the Hindu temples, the fundamental source of all Indian music. Thus, as in Western music, the roots of Indian classical music are religious. To us, music can be a spiritual discipline on the path to self-realisation, for we follow the traditional teaching that sound is God - Nada Brahma: By this process individual consciousness can be elevated to a realm of awareness where the revelation of the true meaning of the universe - its eternal and unchanging essence - can be joyfully experienced. Our ragas are the vehicles by which this essence can be perceived.   The performing arts in India - music, dance,drama, and poetry - are based on the concept of Nava Rasa , or the "nine sentiments. Each raga is principally dominated by one of these nine rasas, although the performer can also bring out other emotions in a less prominent way. The more closely the notes of a raga conform to the expression of one single idea or emotion, the more overwhelming the effect of the raga.

This instrument to people like us is associated with him.  It is the ‘Sitar’, a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in Hindustani music and Indian classical music. The instrument is believed to have been derived from the veena, an ancient Indian instrument, which was modified by a Mughal court musician to conform with the tastes of his Mughal patrons and named after a Persian instrument called the setar (meaning three strings).  Used widely throughout the Indian subcontinent, the sitar became popularly known in the wider world through the works of Ravi Shankar, beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Pandit Ravi Shankar, was the virtuoso sitar maestro who introduced Indian classical music to the world and inspired the Sixties 'psychedelic' sound through his collaboration with the Beatles. Shankar was born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury in Benares (a.k.a. Varanasi, or Kashi), West Bengal, on April 7 1920.  His mother a Bengali Brahmin and his father, Pandit Dr Shyam Shankar Chowdhury, a wealthy landowner and minister in a maharaja’s court, who left  London to practise law.

In October 1970 Shankar became chair of the department of Indian music of the California Institute of the Arts after previously teaching at the City College of New York, the University of California, Los Angeles, and being guest lecturer at other colleges and universities.  He performed widely in many continents.   Ravi  Shankar was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Music Score for his work on the 1982 movie Gandhi, but lost to John Williams' ET.

He served as a member of the Rajya Sabha, from 1986 to 1992 after being nominated by  Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In July 2010,  at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, London, England, Anoushka Shankar, on sitar, performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by David Murphy what was billed the first Symphony by Ravi Shankar.

Shankar's eldest daughter and protege Anoushka is now a respected sitarist in her own right.  His other daughter, the jazz pianist and singer-songwriter Norah Jones.

I am not for celebrating birthdays of persons who are no more … yet this Google doodle on his 96th birthday is quite attractive.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

7th Apr 2016

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