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Cultural ambassadors pay tributes to Pt Ravi Shankar

New Delhi: Leading ambassadors of Indian culture converged to pay tributes and exchange fond memories of sitar Legend Pandit Ravi Shankar, whose legacy has bridged the cultural chasm between East and the West.

"The greatest tribute that we can pay Panditji would be that we continue to listen to his marvellous music and to keep the tradition alive, the "Guru-Shishya Parampara," said Karan Singh, President Indian Council for Cultural Relatins, which organised the cultural programme here last evening.

"Listening to Panditji was always an unforgettable experience... He was a great person, very soft-spoken and affectionate besides being what the world knows him for - excellent music," said Singh.

Ravi Shankar, a multi-cultural icon, passed away last month at 92 and was named as Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, a day after his death.

"I hope great music legends (like Ravi Shankar) do emerge again, because earlier also, there were some, like Ustad Vilayat Khan and others. But then, there was nobody who could achieve great heights in not just India but also globally, the way Ravi Shankar did," said Singh.

Kathak dancer Birju Maharaj also paid rich tributes to the late musician.

"Ravi Shankar is immortal and unforgettable. When I came to Sangeet Bharti, I was around fourteen years of age. Whenever I went to see him, to meet him (Ravi Shankar), he very affectionately greeted me and often said to his Tabla player, `Now let Birju bhaiya play for sometime`", says the Kathak exponent.

"Even though I was so much younger to him Panditji fondly called me Birju bhaiya. He gave due space and respect to the western music through his sitar which made him immensely popular globally too," said Birju Maharaj.

A short film of his performances at the ICCR was also screened at the event. It featured a recital by Ravi Shankar at `Festival of India` in Soviet Union in 1987-88.

Other artistes who performed at the tribute programmed included Pt Shubhendra Rao (Sitar), Ustad Akram Khan (Tabla) and Pt Rajendra Prasanna on the flute.

Recalling an emotional moment with the Sitar player, eminent Kathak artist Uma Sharma said, "I remember meeting Panditji for the first time in London in 1970 at a cultural festival where he was set to perform with George Harrison. My artistes failed to turn up and I was weeping in a corner.

"Panditji came to me and asked me to forget everything. Taking up his Sitar, he asked me to just dance as he played his instrument and to my surprise, I could do exceedingly well. It was a day I can never forget."

Santoor player Bhajan Sopori also shared fond memories of the late musician.

Sonal Mansingh, Shovana Narayan Narayan and Jatin Das were among some of the other dignitaries who attended the event.