Biography of Ravi Shankar and music career

Published At: 08 January 2021 , 06:36 PM

Biography of Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar is one of the most famous figures in Indian culture. He is called the best sitar player of the 20th century. The musician has made a great contribution to the popularization of traditional Indian music in the European community. Shankar was familiar with the Beatles and maintained a close relationship with George Harrison, whom he taught to play the sitar.

Childhood and youth

Ravi Shankar was born in Varanasi into a brahmana family on April 2, 1920. His relatives were Orthodox Brahmins. The boy turned out to be the youngest of 7 brothers. His penchant for creativity was noticeable from childhood, so Ravi spent his entire youth in the dance ensemble of his brother Uday Shankar. The Company of Hindy Dance and Music went on tour to European countries and gave concerts in India.

However, the dance attracted the young man not as much as the music. In 1938, Ravi decided to change his career and began taking sitar lessons. The court musician Allaudin Khan became his mentor. The art of controlling a musical instrument was easy for a talented young man. The knowledge and experience passed on by the multi-instrumentalist mentor helped shape their performing style. Ravi quickly learned the basics and by 1944 began to try himself as a composer.


The debut of Shankar the sitarist took place in 1939 in Allahabad. Here the musician performed solo for the first time. He was quickly noticed in the professional community, and interesting proposals began to come to the talented young man. In 1945 he wrote music for the ballet Immortal India, commissioned by the Communist Party.

In 1948, Shankar settled in Bombay and began collaborating with cultural figures. The musician created decorations for films and ballets, acted as a session participant in collectives, and went on tour. Great success was accompanied by the ballet "Discovery of India", for which the author wrote music. The premiere took place with excitement on stage in Bombay and Calcutta. The production was based on the book by Jawaharlal Nehru and told about the history of the country.

Ravi Shankar - "Dhun" ("Raga Bhimpalasi"), 1967

In 1948, Ravi Shankar was invited to the post of director of music programs, and a year later he became director of New Delhi's All India Radio. The composer held this position until 1956. Besides, Shankar directed the ensemble of national instruments. He did not leave solo work and gave concerts.

In 1954, the audience of the Soviet Union got acquainted with the musician's compositions. After 2 years, they started talking about him in Western Europe and the USA. In India, at that time, Shankar was among the top most popular artists, and foreign trips brought him worldwide fame. The musician recorded his first solo album in 1956. It was the "Three Ragas" record.

In the 1960s, the massive fascination with Indian culture strengthened the ratings of the performer. One of the Beatles members, the legendary George Harrison, was among the artist's fans. He became a student of Shankar and used the motives of Indian music in his compositions. Later, George acted as a producer of sitarist albums.

In 1969, Shankar published an English-language memoir entitled My Music, My Life. This work is considered today one of the best compositions dedicated to traditional Indian music. Several years later, the author published a second autobiography, edited by Harrison.

In 1974 the album "Shankar family & friends" was released, and in 1976 the "Music Festival of India" was recorded. The artist was invited to major music festivals, including events in Woodstock, Monterey, and Bangladesh. In the spring of 1982, Ravi Shankar gave a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London. It was attended by the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and India and Prince Charles.

Ravi Shankar's work is not only a reproduction of classics but also a large number of experiments. Collaborating with various artists, Shankar often drew criticism at home, but this did not stop the musician from working together with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, composers Andre Previn and Philip Glass. Shankar's discography includes records with solo works for sitar and compositions for musical instruments and orchestra.

Ravi Shankar was a very educated and erudite person. He has won acclaim in the music field with two Grammy awards and 14 Ph.D. degrees. The composer became a member of the American Academy of Arts. Curiously, for some time Shankar was even listed as a member of the Indian parliament, so great was the trust in his person. The main achievement of the author was going beyond the boundaries of traditional classical music and its popularization. Shankar contributed to the symbiosis of the culture of Europe and the East.

The composer's achievements were recognized by the Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna awards. He is also a recipient of UNICEF and UNESCO prizes and Commander of the Legion of Honor of France. In 2004, the musician was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.