Tuesday, February 11, 2014

25 Days Of Harrison Day 10- Ravi Shankar

Ronbindro Shaunker Chawdhury, also known as Ravi Shankar, was born on 7 April, 1920 in Varanasi (known as Benares), India. Ravi has adapted the nick name of the "Godfather of World Music" with his contributions in the music world, using his Indian traditions and his western influences mixing them with instruments like the sitar. Throughout his life he would be inspiring the world and young musicians with his music, thoughts, and charity efforts, like The Concert For Bangladesh.

Ravi lived in the town of Varanasi, Mark Twain once talked about the town saying,
"Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and look(ing) Twice as old as all of them put together."
He and his brother moved to Paris when Ravi was ten years old. His brother, Uday Shankar, was a member of Compagnie De Danse Et Musique Hindon (Company of Hindu Dance and Music) troupe.
"I started out as a dance, but gradually became more interest in music."-Ravi  Shankar
Ravi Shankar
In 1934 Ravi met guru and musician, Allaudin Khan (Ravi called him Baba), who had became his mentor. Two years later Khan would become the soloist for the dance troupe.  Four years later the two went to Maihar, India to study the playing of sitar. Baba not only influenced Ravi's music, but the way he viewed the world opening his eyes on more religious views in a way (Ravi being from the practice of Hinduism and Khan a Muslim). Ravi had said that Baba was a very religous man and remembers one experience of the two going to a cathedral,
"The moment we entered, I could see he was in a strange mood. The Cathedral had a huge statue of the Virgin Mary. Baba went towards the statue and started howling like a child: 'Ma, Ma' (Mother, Mother), with tears flowing freely."- Ravi Shankar
Ten years after Ravi met Khan he got a job working for Indian People's Theater Association in Mumbai, where he composed music for ballets. He then became a music director in New Delhi up until 1956. In 1956 he debuted in the United States and Western Europe. He even wrote songs for films like Pather Panchali, the film won Grand Pix (now known as Golden Palm) at the Cannes Festival (1955).

The 1960s were a great decade for Ravi where his music began to flourish taking him to Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock (1969). It was also in the 1960s where he would meet the number one band in the world, The Beatles and inspire band member, George Harrison thoroughly in the Indian music and culture.

Early photo of George and Ravi
"But George got very interested in it, and went to a couple of Ravi Shankar concerts, and then he met Ravi and said, 'I was knocked out by him!' - just as a person. He's an incredible fellow. He's one of the greatest. He didn't know that George was serious about it, and so when he found out George was serious he was knocked out, too. So the two of them were having a great time! And that's how we brought Indian sounds on. "- Paul McCartney 
George first met Ravi in 1965 at the home of Asian Music Circle (London) owner, Mr. Anghadi. George recalls in his book I Me Mine, that Shankar soon came to Esher giving George sitar lessons and even having a little concert for George, John, and Ringo with tabla player Allah Rakha.
"The telephone rang and I put the sitar down, stood up and went to step across the sitar to go to the phone and Ravi whacked me on the leg and said 'the first thing you must realise is that you must have more respect for your instrument'."-George Harrison on Ravi's visit
 George and Pattie Boyd were soon in Bombay where they were guest of Ravi Shankar. Ravi would take George to temples, gave him books and would give him lessons about the sitar and the Indian culture, some lasting eight hours.
"... was a search for spiritual connection."- George Harrison on the trip
The Harrison's stayed in Indian for six or seven weeks, taking yoga lessons "...because I had to learn how to sit and hold a sitar." as George said. Later in 1968 Ravi had visited George trying to figure out where he came from, Liverpool and all, where George said (in I Me Mine) that he felt like India was more his home. At this time George thought,
"Well maybe I should get back to the guitar because I'm not getting any better at the guitar and I'm not going to be a great sitar player".
In 1971 Ravi had approached George while the two were working on the soundtrack album for a film 'Raga' mentioning to him that he wanted raise money for Bangladesh.

"Ravi was talking to me and telling me how he wanted to do a concert, but bigger than he normally did, so that he could raise maybe 25,000 dollars for the starving in Bangla Desh. he asked if I could thing of some way of helpings, say for instance for me to come on and introduce it or mayber bring in Peter Sellers... Something to help, anyway."- George Harrison, I Me Mine
 Followed by, 
"The Beatles had been trained to the view that if you're going to do it, you might as well do it big and why not make a million dollars."
George started calling various musicians like Eric Clapton, who willingly did the concert. There was very little practice and rehearsal for the concert, in fact there was not one rehearsal that everyone showed up at. 

Concert For Bangladesh
In August of 1971 at Madison Square Garden, New York two concerts, like no other were held to spread  awareness about the UNICEF foundation. This concerts raised millions of dollars for the organization and opened the eyes to all of it's viewers. Various musicians including George Harrison and Ravi Shankar attended the concert, musicians like Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Alla Rakha, Kamala Chakravarty and of course The band which consisted of Jesse Ed Davis, Tom Evans, Pete Ham, Mike Gibbins, Jim Keltner, Joey Molland, Don Preston, Carl Radle, Klaus Voormann, The Hollywood Horns, Backing Vocalists; Don Mix, Jo Green, Jeanie Greene, Marlin Greene, Dolores Hall, and Claudia Linnear. Check more about the concert and the UNICEF organization here.


"... The main result was that we were able to attract attention to events over there in Bangla Desh, because while we were setting up the concert the Americans were shipping arms to Pakistan. Thousands were dying everyday but in the newspapers, coming after Biafra, it was just afew little sayings 'Oh yeah it's still going on'.
So our thing was, we attracted a lot of publicity, turned it round and even now I still meet waiters in Bengali resturants who say: 'Oh, you Mr. Harrison. When we were in the jungle fighting it was great to know somebody out there was thinking of us'."- George Harrison, I Me Mine
George and Ravi
 Ravi and George had a relationship like no other, staying close friends up till George's passing. Ravi Shankar passed away on 11 December, 2012 after suffering from upper respiratory issues and trying to recover from a major heart surgery at age 92. He had to two daughters who took care of him as he took his final breath in San Diego.

Throughout his life Ravi had been nominated for an Oscar for his song for the film Gandhi (1982), 14 honorary degrees, 2 Grammy awards, Lifetime Achievement Grammy award, and was member to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

"I will keep playing as long as my body lets me, and as long as I'm wanted by my listeners. Because music is the one things that keeps me going."- Ravi Shankar


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