“Get high on music,” Pandit Ravi Shankar always urged audiences in the West, sharing one of India’s oldest and best-kept secrets with the world.
As for what Indian audiences got from Ravi Shankar, musicians and listeners agree that his music had two outstanding qualities. He was able to convey the essence and personality of a raga. And he was a master of ‘layakari’ -- tempo and rhythm.
Ravi Shankar enjoyed playing with rhythm at its most breathtaking pace with formidable tabla maestros like Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain. It was not a task for the faint-hearted.
Ravi Shankar’s ability and insight were tempered by his association with his guru Baba Allauddin Khan, his first wife Annapurna Devi and her brother Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
His understanding of the relationship between notes was noted for its power and quality, its ability to take listeners on emotional journeys. The raginis and ragas were held to present themselves at his bidding.
Ravi Shankar listed 30 new ragas as his creations, with names like ‘Pancham se Gara’ and ‘Gangeshwari’, whose provenance was debated. But his knowledge, technical skill and imaginative power raised the sitar to unprecedented heights, and with it, the history of music.
- Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture