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Ravi Shankar bids farewell to Europe

Having mesmerised fans around the world for decades, Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar will bid farewell to Europe tonight by performing a select set of ragas for the last time.

music Updated: Jun 04, 2008 18:32 IST

Having mesmerised fans around the world for decades, Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar will bid farewell to Europe by performing a select set of ragas in London tonight for the last time.

The 88-year-old sitar maestro, who has been a major force for innovation in Indian classical music, is on a tour to Europe which will culminate at the prestigious Barbican Centre here tonight. His daughter Anoushka will also perform with him.

Much of the tour had to be cancelled due to a stomach virus - but Ravi Shankar has now been declared fit and ready to play.

In an interview to Guardian newspaper ahead of tonight's performance, Ravi Shankar said he "feels much better now than ever before but his body sometimes lets him down."

"My mind, musically... In every sense I feel much better than ever before. But it is the body that sometimes let's met down," he said.

Anoushka, who is also a sitar player, said her father has given a new shape and definition to sitar.

"He has given a new shape and definition to this instrument over the course of the 20th century," says his daughter Anoushka.

"He added the bass string that is quite common now. He created the modern notation system for Indian music. The tabla player was never really an important factor until my father made percussion a central part. A lot of what people now consider Indian music can be traced back to him."

Shankar, who began his career at the age of 10 touring the world with his brother Uday's dance troupe, says he might have ended up a dancer if master instrumentalist Ustad Allauddin Khan would not have inspired him.

"He used to scold me, saying: 'You will be nothing. You will be jack of all and master of none.' And that shocked me." Shankar spent seven years studying sitar with Khan before emerging in the late 1940s and 50s to become one of India's most celebrated musicians.

At 88, he admits that he finds it difficult not to think of his legacy.

"Yes, I have considered it," he says. "I sit with Anoushka and give her new things, information that I didn't give her before. That is what happens with our music - it goes on growing, because it is not written down or set in a book."