Indian classical music is perhaps the only one from our country that can be classified as true crossover music. Let me explain how. When we perform Bollywood shows abroad, it’s usually Indians or Asians living in that area that make up the majority of the crowd. But an Indian classical music show attracts more foreigners than Indians. At times, the foreigner to Indian audience ratio is as much as 80:20. This is the power of crossover Indian music, whose pioneer was Pandit Ravi Shankar. He gave our music to the world. Almost every international musician I have interacted with has heard about Panditji. It’s because of him that our music is respected across the globe. An artiste like me will need ten lives to achieve what Panditji achieved in one lifetime.
I had the good fortune of having Panditji in the audience at two of my shows abroad. The positive energy that Panditji gave me both times boosted my confidence manifold. In 2010 I got a chance to visit Panditji’s home for breakfast where all his family members were present. That was the day he blessed my online music academy, a one-of-its-kind venture. Needless to say, it was a memorable start to my project.
I remember how when one of my friends went to Panditji’s home to seek an appointment, he was surprised to see him practising the sitar. Panditji was about 90 then.
This shows that not only was he passionate about music but he also led a very disciplined life. This is further demonstrated by his active participation in the recent copyright movement. Panditji specially flew down to Delhi to support the changes in the Copyright Act. When reporters asked him if he had received royalties for any of his work so far, Panditji replied in the negative. He further said that he doesn’t want contemporary and future musicians to suffer due to the absence of a law on copyright and that’s why he wants to extend his support to them.
Legends like Panditji don’t die. Their legacy lasts till the end of time. An end to physical existence won’t put an end to the remarkable impact he has left on music. I am glad that Panditji’s daughter, Anoushka, is carrying forward her father’s legacy. Her attitude towards life is modern while her commitment to classical music is like her father’s.
I hope that wherever he may be, Panditji will continue to smile on artistes like me and bless us so that we continue to make good music for years to come.
- Shankar Mahadevan is a music composer and singer
The views expressed by the author are personal