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.