Ravi Shankar: 5 facts you didn't know

To celebrate Ravi Shankar's hundredth birthday this year, we reveal five facts you might not have known about the sitar legend... 

This year marks the centenary of famous Indian musician and composer Ravi Shankar. Born in India, Ravi was one of the first Indian musicians to tour extensively around the world and is often credited with bringing the sounds of the Indian raga to the Western world. To celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday, we’ve compiled a list of five things you may not know about the influential musician.

He gave sitar lessons to George Harrison


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Ravi Shankar met The Beatles’ guitarist in London in 1966. George was so taken with Ravi that he ended up going to India later that year to study sitar with him for six weeks! A lot of people credit The Beatles’ later Indian influences to this friendship and, following several further collaborations between the musicians, “AllMusic” ended up calling Ravi Shankar “the most famous Indian musician on the planet”.

Read more: Ten artists and bands that inspired The Beatles 
 

He won two Grammys after he died

After Ravi Shankar’s passing in 2012, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2013, where his album The Living Room Sessions Pt. 1 also won an award for Best World Music Album. His daughter Anoushka was nominated for a Grammy in the same category in the same year for her album Traveller, marking her third Grammy nomination!
 

His daughter is Norah Jones


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Ravi Shankar had Norah with Sue Jones, New York concert producer, in 1979. Norah is now an eight-time Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter who has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, and has been named the “top jazz artist of the decade” by Billboard magazine.

Her famous album Come Away with Me was certified Diamond in 2002 and sold over 27 million copies, earning her five Grammys, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year.
 

He was composing his only opera when he died


Manuscript illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra from the Sanskrit epic, Mahābhārata

Ravi Shankar died partway through composing his only opera and final work Sukanya, based on the Hindu myth of the same name. His close friend and collaborator David Murphy completed the work with the help of Ravi’s daughter Anoushka, and it had its world premiere with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2017.

The world premiere won universal critical acclaim for its unique combination of Eastern and Western music, featuring traditional Indian instruments, Western orchestra, singers and a dance ensemble. Taken from the famous Sanskrit texts of the Mahābhāratathe opera’s magical story involves a beautiful princess, an ancient sage, a pair of meddling Gods and an unlikely union.
 

2020 marks his 100th birthday

Ravi Shankar was born in 1920, making 2020 his 100th birthday. Various venues all over the world will be celebrating, not least the Southbank Centre who have a whole Shankar100 season, which kicks off with a performance of Sukanya on January 15. Ravi’s daughter Anoushka will also be returning to reprise her solo in her father’s “Symphony” with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in April, ten years after the same ensemble performed the world premiere at the same venue in 2010.

 

The London Philharmonic Orchestra are joined by a multi-cultural cast of singers and dancers at the Southbank Centre to perform Ravi Shankar’s Sukanya on January 15. Tickets are available here

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