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Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)

The celebrated musician Ravi Shankar, an Indian sitar master and Norah Jones’s own father, is one of her paramount influences.

To discover Ravi Shankar

Widely considered the top Indian sitar player, Ravi Shankar gave his first concerts in the 1940s before composing “Sare Jahan Se Achcha” in 1945, a song that was to become the most popular in India after the national anthem. He participated in the renaissance of Indian music, founding the All-India Radio Orchestra and the National Chamber Orchestra. At the same time, his international career took off with a triumphant tour in the USSR in 1954, followed by his first concerts in Europe and the US in 1956. By the 1960s, his fame was international. He made noted appearances at the Monterey and Woodstock music festivals during the summer of 1969. During this same period, he met the Beatles and taught guitarist George Harrison to play the sitar. Harrison once described Shankar as “the godfather of World Music.” In 1965, the legendary English group would include the sitar on their song “Norwegian Wood.” The following year, another iconic English group followed suit: the sitar had a prominent role on the Rolling Stones hit “Paint it Black.”

Although Ravi Shankar had a major influence on rock, the saxophonist and major modern jazz figure John Coltrane also studied alongside him in 1965, and even named one of his children after him.

Shankar’s talents as a songwriter and sitar virtuoso earned him many awards, including three Grammys over the course of his career and Sweden’s prestigious Polar Prize in 1980. He was instrumental in creating dialogue between cultures and in taking Indian music on a journey around the world.

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