Pandit Ravi Shankar died Tuesday at age 92 in his San Diego residence. A statement on his website said he died in San Diego, near his Southern California home with his wife and a daughter by his side. The musician's foundation issued a statement saying that he had suffered upper respiratory and heart problems and had undergone heart-valve replacement surgery last week.
Labeled the godfather of world music by Harrison, Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music.
He was legend of legends, Shivkumar Sharma, a noted santoor player who performed with Shankar, told Indian media. Indian classical was not at all known in the Western world. He was the musician who had that training … the ability to communicate with the Western audience.
Throughout his long career, Shankar granted international audiences access to millennia-old Indian musical traditions, through his performances and recordings, and by collaborating with a diverse group of high-profile musicians like George Harrison, Phillip Glass, John Coltrane and Philip Glass.
Shankar was born in 1920 in Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities and one of the holiest places in India. He began his career as a performer in his brother’s Indian dance troupe, and later picked up the sitar and other classical music instruments. After living in Paris with his family, Shankar returned to India to dedicate himself to the study of the sitar, where he apprenticed under sitar great Ustad Allauddin Khan, and, eventually became famous himself as a musician and composer in India. “He first achieved the pinnacle of popularity among Indian audiences and his peers, then he went abroad where he educated the western audience on Indian music,” says Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, an esteemed santoor player who was close to Shankar. “He was a thinking musician. He never diluted his music … Such musicians are not created merely through practice or dedication, but somehow through a higher divine power.”
Shankar leaves behind his second wife, Sukanya Shankar, and two daughters, sitarist Anoushka Shankar and singer-songwriter Norah Jones, both of whom have successful music careers of their own. “[Shankar] was a symbol of Indian tradition, culture and our past heritage of 3000 years,” says Sharma. “His legacy will continue in his compositions which future generations will continue to listen to and be inspired.”