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Historic Day that Popularised Pandit Ravi Shankar as ‘Godfather of World Music’

On a cloudy Sunday afternoon in July 1967, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar performed a mesmeric four-hour set on the Monterey Worldwide Pop Music Competition in California, accompanied by Ustad Allah Rakha on the tabla and Kamala Chakravarty enjoying the tanpura. 

As Ravi Shankar recalled, “[The] Monterey Pop Competition was the true starting. All of the younger folks had been so recent and so passionate and so drawn to my music. From the second I began my first stroke on the instrument (sitar), I knew that we had been linked.”

“I noticed some very well-known folks within the subject of rock and pop music. It was very unusual. They had been simply sitting there, listening to me, swinging away and having fun with themselves. I had seen them carry out the night time earlier than they usually had been so totally different. I used to be scared after that as a result of their means of presenting the present is so totally different from ours. I didn’t realise it then, I used to be excited, however afterward so many individuals instructed me the way it did change their life, which was very touching,” he added.  

Within the viewers that day was the awe-inspiring guitarist and recording artist Jimi Hendrix, who was mesmerised by the advanced ragas he was churning out. Later that night, Hendrix would famously mild his electrical guitar up in flames after his legendary efficiency — his first in entrance of an American viewers. The distinction between two music legends couldn’t be starker. 

Whereas one sat cross-legged behind his sitar exuding a stirring calmness whereas additionally participating in virtuoistic jugalbandi with legendary desk participant Alla Rakha, the opposite introduced with him a ferocious depth marked by sonic magic that actually led to flames. 

Pandit Ravi Shankar at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967

For Western audiences, significantly aficionados of blues and rock music, Hendrix stole the present at Monterey together with his unbelievable music and showmanship. You’ll discover a plethora of articles in Western publications stating how the competition “belonged” to him. 

Others, nonetheless, imagine that Ravi Shankar “not solely held his personal with the most effective of Jimi Hendrix, Huge Brother and the Holding Firm, and the Grateful Lifeless”, but in addition confirmed the Western plenty the place acts just like the Byrds and Beatles, significantly George Harrison, had been choosing up their current influences from. Marked by unparalleled ability and an incomparable sound, his efficiency introduced Hindustani classical music to the forefront of mainstream Western tradition. 

Within the phrases of his biographer, Oliver Craske, Ravi Shankar had led to a ‘Sitar Explosion’ within the West. However at no level did he compromise on his cultural heritage or dilute the complexity of what he was bringing to the desk or cater to “lazy notions” of Jap tradition held by Western audiences. The truth is, he grew more and more aggravated “with the lazy understanding of his sacred music, particularly the cliché associations of Ragas with medicine and psychedelic kitsch.”

His annoyance grew additional after performing on the notorious Woodstock Competition in 1969, and in reality, stopped attending comparable pop festivals within the West. You possibly can watch this 1971 interview with discuss present host Dick Cavett and artist George Harrison to know his irritation. 

What he demanded from his viewers was rigour and a spotlight and that they “get excessive” on his music. On the identical time, nonetheless, he wasn’t restricted by custom. 

He collaborated with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin, Philip Glass and Zubin Mehta, and repeatedly experimented, which gave him such a novel sound.  

His daughter Anoushka Shankar, a sitar maestro in her personal proper, stated it finest in an interview with NPR, “There’s one thing actually inspiring about being actually rooted with the intention to discover our freedom of who we’re. What actually stays with me about my father is how deeply rooted his music was, after which from that rootedness, how expansive and free his creativity was.” 

She added, “He was concurrently probably the most educated particular person I knew when it got here to the intricacies of a deeply, deeply difficult musical fashion, however he was additionally probably the most artistic human being I do know. It was like a faucet for him and he may endlessly create.”

The efficiency at Monterey additionally cemented the title George Harrison as soon as gave him, which was the ‘Godfather of World Music’. 

Because the Grammy Museum elaborates, “What he more than likely meant by the title was that Shankar was one of many earliest and positively most vital non-Western music virtuosos to introduce non-Western music to Western pop and rock followers.” 

“Although some American classical music followers might need recognized of Shankar and the intricacies of Indian music previous to the ‘60s, Shankar’s means to attract — and captivate — younger listeners on this nation was unprecedented,” the outline provides. 

As somebody who realized learn how to play the sitar from Ravi Shankar, Harrison understood fairly evidently that not solely did the Sitar maestor’s music transcend continents, nations and cultures, but in addition generations. 

There have been detractors in India, who felt that his affiliation with artists like George Harrison would compromise the aesthetic and spirituality of classical music. They felt the Sitar had no enterprise discovering itself in pop songs like ‘Love You To’ or ‘Norwegian Wooden’ by The Beatles. 

Regardless of the critics, their relationship remained robust until Harrison’s demise in November 2001. 

Ravi Shankar took the hits from critics again residence to take Indian classical music to the world. In a profession spanning greater than 60 albums, he “single-handedly launched Western audiences to the centuries-old classical custom of Indian Ragas.” And recognition wasn’t too far behind with sold-out arenas and 4 Grammy Awards, together with the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

However it was his efficiency in Monterey which kickstarted the mass adoration he enjoys at the moment and introduced actual recognition to the centuries-old custom of Indian classical music within the West. 


‘The Enduring Afterglow Of Ravi Shankar’s Life In Music’ by Bilal Qureshi; Revealed on 7 April 2020 courtesy NPR/wbur

‘Ravi Shankar, Open Thoughts’ by Taylor Ho Bynam; Revealed on 12 December 2020 courtesy The New Yorker

‘REVISIT: RAVI SHANKAR: A LIFE IN MUSIC’; Revealed on 8 Might 2020 courtesy Grammy Museum

‘Ravi Shankar on The Sitar’s Affiliation With Medicine | The Dick Cavett Present’ courtesy YouTube

Ravi Shankar & Alla Rakha Reside in Monterey Pop courtesy YouTube

(Edited by Divya Sethu)



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