Ravi Shankar, the sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with the Beatles and who introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences, has died. He was 92.Ravi Shankar: 'The Godfather of World Music'
Ravi Shankar, the sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with the Beatles and who introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over an eight-decade career, has died. He was 92.
The Prime Minister's Office confirmed his death and called him a "national treasure."
Labeled "the godfather of world music" by George Harrison, Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music.
George Harrison, of the Beatles, left, sits cross-legged with his musical mentor, Ravi Shankar, in Los Angeles, as Harrison explains to newsmen that Shankar is teaching him to play the sitar.
He also pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh. To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.
As early as the 1950s, Shankar began collaborating with and teaching some of the greats of Western music, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. He played well-received shows in concert halls in Europe and the United States, but faced a constant struggle to bridge the musical gap between the West and the East.
Describing an early Shankar tour in 1957, Time magazine said "US audiences were receptive but occasionally puzzled."
His close relationship with Harrison, the Beatles lead guitarist, shot Shankar to global stardom in the 1960s.
Harrison had grown fascinated with the sitar, a long necked, string instrument that uses a bulbous gourd for its resonating chamber and resembles a giant lute. He played the instrument, with a Western tuning, on the song "Norwegian Wood," but soon sought out Shankar, already a musical icon in India, to teach him to play it properly.