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Google tributes Pandit Ravi Shankar with a doodle on his 96th birthday

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 07, Apr 2016, 11:02 am IST | UPDATED: 07, Apr 2016, 11:24 am IST

Google tributes Pandit Ravi Shankar with a doodle on his 96th birthday New Delhi: Tech giant Google pays tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar with a very artistic doodle on his 96th birthday. Born on April, 7, 1920, in Varanasi. His birth name was Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury.

Pandit Shankar spent his youth touring India and Europe with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing and started learning sitar playing under the guidance of court musician Allauddin Khan.
 
In 1999, Pandit Shankar was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. He passed away on December 11, 2012, after undergoing heart valve replacement surgery.

Pandit Shankar is known for his compositions and music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray. His relation with Beatles guitarist George Harrison aided the spread of Indian music outside country, leading to the raga rock trend.

The doodle is designed by artist Kevin Laughlin. It is sketched by keeping a sitar as the centerpiece with the stings spreading likes tree branches to outline Google.

Who is Pandit Ravi Shankar

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), Uttar Pradesh, on April 7 1920 and raised by his mother in a Bengali brahmin community.

His father, Pandit Dr Shyam Shankar Chowdhury, a wealthy landowner and minister in a maharaja’s court, left his family in poverty and went to Calcutta and then London to practise law.

The youngest of five surviving brothers (two other children had died, at birth and in early childhood), Shankar was nicknamed Ravi, meaning “the sun”.

He met his father for the first time when he was eight years old.

Ravi Shankar's early years

When Shankar was 10, his father and brother (Uday Shankar) left India to live in Europe. In 1930 he moved to Paris to be part of his brother's musical troupe and moved back to India eight years later to begin his formal training.

He apprenticed himself to Ustad Allauddin Khan, affectionately known as Baba, and spent a number of years learning the sitar under his tutelage.

Once his apprenticeship was finished, he began to create a name for himself in radio and film, composing music for movies such as Dharti ke Lal, and Cheetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946).  

In 1949 he moved to Delhi to become a music director of All In India Radio and continued to travel back and forth between India and the West.  He held this post until 1956, during which time he founded a national chamber orchestra called Vadya Vrinda – an Indian ensemble with a few extra western stringed instruments.
Ravi Shankar and George Harrison collaborate

In 1966, Harrison befriended Shankar and began to take lessons from him and the latter's protégé Shambhu Das.

This association catapulted Shankar to international fame.  The Beatles’ guitarist then went to India for six weeks. But the visit proved a rude introduction to celebrity for Shankar.

Despite his affection for Harrison, it proved a difficult period for Shankar, who wasn't keen on the rock music scene.

His association with the Beatles led to accusations India that he was a hippie who promoted drug use. In fact, Shankar was intensely critical of the “flower and beads” addicts.

During the 1970s he distanced himself from his hippie associations and began to refocus on cementing his status as a classical Indian musician but his friendship with Harrison endured.

“It is a beautiful relationship,” Shankar said. “Guru and disciple and friend at the same time and father and son as well.”

Harrison collaborated with him on two Concert for Bangladesh benefit performances in 1971, co-produced a four-CD album for Shankar’s 75th birthday, and produced Shankar’s album Chants of India (1997), in which classical Indian forms (mantras and chants based on Sanskrit prayers) were combined with a choir and Western instrumentation including vibraphone, harps, violins and cellos.

Harrison also edited Shankar’s autobiography, Raga Mala (Garland of Ragas, 1999), and once dubbed him “the Godfather of world music”.

He is also to a lesser extent, known for his association with Yehudi Menuhin the violinist, who he performed frequently with. Shankar also composed a concerto with sitar for the London Symphony Orchestra.

Shankar died in December 2012 aged 92.

'The Great Sitar Explosion'

The Kinks' 1965 single 'See My Friends' was one of the first records to feature the sound of the sitar, but the instrument used was actually a low-tuned drone guitar.

Similarly, folk rock pioneers The Byrds had incorporated elements of Indian music, using only Western instrumentation, on their songs 'Eight Miles High' and 'Why' in 1965. They had heard Shankar’s music when sharing a studio with the sitar player in Los Angeles.

In 1966, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones used a sitar on 'Paint It Black", while another English guitarist, Dave Mason, played one on Traffic's 1967 hits 'Paper Sun' and 'Hole in My Shoe'.

Beatles guitarist George Harrison had discovered Shankar through The Byrds' David Crosby and played a sitar on 'Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) ' in late 1965 and  'Love You To' in 1966.

These and other examples prompted Shankar to described the use of the instrument as "the great sitar explosion".

Speaking to KRLA Beat in July 1967, he said: "Many people, especially young people, have started listening to sitar since George Harrison, one of the Beatles, became my disciple … It is now the 'in' thing."

Ravi Shankar's talented daughters

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, was born in 1979 as a result of a clandestine affair Shankar had with the New York concert producer Sue Jones. She has since sold tens of millions of albums.
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