London: Norah Jones led mourners at a memorial service for her father, Indian sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, in San Diego on Thursday.
The ‘Come Away With Me’ singer and her sister, Anoushka Shankar, joined hundreds of friends and family to pay tribute to the virtuoso.
Shankar, whose sound had a major influence on The Beatles, died last week at the age of 92.
The musician was remembered on Thursday as an unfailingly generous teacher with a gentle spirit and sense of humour whose music fostered understanding between East and West.
Shankar’s daughters were in the audience at the Self-Realization Fellowship center in Encinitas, the oceanfront suburb where the musician had lived for the last two decades, were speakers paid tribute.
Olivia Harrison said Shankar helped her late husband George Harrison achieve a more meaningful life when he was a young Beatle.
“They were like father and son as well as brothers,” the Daily Mail quoted Harrison as saying.
Shankar’s close relationship with Harrison, the Beatles’ lead guitarist, shot the Indian musician to global stardom in the 1960s.
Taking the stage to honour Shankar, conductor Zubin Mehta said he felt like a ‘little crumb’ listening to Shankar play and credited his close friend with introducing India to the world.
The audience listened to clips of Shankar’s music and recorded voice.
Under blue skies on a warm Southern California morning, a family friend read messages from political and cultural luminaries including musicians Phillip Glass and Peter Gabriel, who thanked him for teaching them.
The audience heard excerpts from newspaper stories that trumpeted Shankar``s enormous influence.
Labeled “the godfather of world music” by Harrison, Shankar helped millions of Westerners - classical, jazz and rock lovers - discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music. From Harrison to John Coltrane, from Yehudi Menuhin to Andre Previn, he bridged the musical gap between East and West.
Pirashanna Thevarajah, one of his students, said that Shankar was the reason he pursued a music career and that his teacher sometimes believed more in him than he believed in himself. He called Shankar “a very simple soul with a wonderful sense of humour.”
Film director Joe Wright, Shankar’s son-in-law, recalled a risky medical operation that Shankar’s family was unsure he would survive. Though he made it through, Wright thought he might never again see Shankar alive as he was rolled into the operating room.
Shankar’s last musical performance was with his other daughter, sitarist Anoushka Shankar Wright, on November 4 in Long Beach, California. His foundation said it was to celebrate his tenth decade of creating music.
To later generations, he was known as the father of popular American singer Norah Jones, although the pair were estranged.
He has won three Grammy awards and was nominated for an Oscar for his musical score for the movie ‘Gandhi’.