New Delhi: Sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar was feted by diplomats, well wishers and admirers who gathered in the capital to celebrate the musician`s birth year and share glimpses of his nine-decade-old life.
"Music is the soul of India. It has always been my life as well," said the composer musician in a letter read out at the event "Ravi Shankar, 90 not out" organised by the Indo-American Friendship Association in association with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations here late last evening.
"As a young Indian in the 1950s it was a matter of pride to see somebody like Panditji perform on the world stage and reach out across to those like Yehudi Menuhin and the Beatles," said Maharaj Gaj Singh II of Jodhpur.
"We owe his contribution to the world of music," said Singh who studied at Oxford. Singh was joined by others like German ambassador Thomas Matussek, French ambassador Jerome Bonnafont, dancers Pandit Birju Maharaj and Sonal Mansingh at the event chaired by Abid Hussain, fromer envoy to the US.
Born in Varnasi on April 7, 1920, Pandit Ravi Shankar began performing at the age of 11 after being initiated into music and dance a year earlier by his eldest brother, Uday Shankar. As a young boy, Ravi Shankar toured Europe with his brother`s dance troupe and at the age of 18 he began to learn how to play the sitar from his guru Baba Allauddin Khan.
After almost seven years of rigorous study in the ancient gurukul system, Ravi Shankar started composing film music, founded the Indian National Orchestra and worked as a music director for All India Radio. In the 50s and 60s, he taught and performed sitar concerts in the largest halls all over Europe and the Americas popularising ragas and other elements of Indian classical music.
"There was no language barrier as I was very fluent in English and also in French and I could explain our music and the various intricacies of ragas and Talas", said Ravi Shankar in his letter.
"Pandit Ravi Shankar was not only a great musician himself but he transcended and took Indian music to the world and became an icon to so many," said ICCR president Karan Singh at the function here last evening.