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Ravi Shankar explained Indian music to the West

Gayathri V Raj, Mysore: Dec 12, 2012, DHNS
 In this Aug. 3, 1967 file photo, George Harrison, of the Beatles, left, sits cross-legged with his musical mentor, Ravi Shankar of India, in Los Angeles, as Harrison explains to newsmen that Shankar is teaching him to play the sitar. Shankar, the sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with the Beatles and who introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over an eight-decade career, died Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. He was 92. AP File Photo

Pt Ravi Shankar was a cultural icon who managed to explain Indian music to the West and it was a big blessing, said sarod artiste Pt Rajeev Taranath.

Recalling his nostalgic moments with the legend, Taranath said he had known him since 1949. “He had the capability of identifying the real talents among students and showed interest on a particular disciple and that is how he identified me,” he said.

Comparing “Gharanas” with unbounded mother’s love, Rajeev said that Ravi Shankar had always told him that only by performing well, he can bring respect to the art and ‘gharana’. It was at this time, Rajeev sat beside him and asked him what to do? Pat came the reply ‘quit the job’. Ravi Shankar had told Taranath “You have forgotten what you wanted to do. Every person coming to this earth has a particular duty and is born for that, the onus is on the person to identify the path,” and Ravi Shankar played a major role in showing him the right path, Taranath said.


Curds and rasagollas

We know eating hot jamuns with ice creams is a peculiar combination and is popular among the people — especially youth — at marriage receptions. But Ravi Shankar had a unique habit of eating curds with jamuns and curds with rasagollas. He had even forced Taranath to taste the same during one of his visits, Rajeev recalled.

Remembering one of the joyous moments that happened approximately two decades ago, Rajeev said he heard the calling bell ring at his home and opened the door to find the sitar maestro at his doorstep. What followed for the next couple of hours was indeed a transcendental as Ravi Shankar told him to perform Shukla Bilawal raga in Sarod and also started singing with joy accompanied by Rajeev Taranath himself. Later, he also taught him a couple of ragas and that continued in the evening too, he added.

When asked about the volatile temperament of the maestro, Rajeev said in fact Ravishankar had advised him many times not to be serious while performing concerts.

“In 1952 Ravi Shankar had presented a jugalbandi concert with Ali Akbar Khan in Bangalore and that was the moment I decided to take to Sarod and Ali Akbar Khan became my guru,” Rajeev said.

Memorable moment

October 19, 2012, turned out to be one of the most memorable moments in the lives of violin duo from the city, Mysore Nagaraj and Mysore Manjunath — who were presenting a music concert at San Diego in the US. The whole auditorium was calm with the audience listening to the magic of instrumental music in rapt attention.

There was a mild confusion after 20 minutes of the concert at the venue. Two nurses were spotted wheeling in a chair with an old man holding a puppy. Slowly, he was brought to the front and only then the duo realised that it was sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. They immediately folded their hands to convey their regards in the form of ‘namaskara’. Ravi Shankar gestured to continue the concert and the duo selected Simhendra Madhyamaraga and Mishra chaapu tala, which is said to be difficult. The legend started to tap his palms in perfect coordination and lauded their performance.

Later, the duo announced that the next raga to be performed ‘Hindola’ was dedicated to Pandit Ravi Shankar, who came to the auditorium at 6.45 pm and stayed on until the concert was over — for more than two hours, despite his poor health condition. “It was like a fantasy, we were still not sure if the maestro had really come and it is said to be the last time he made a public appearance,” the duo said. He stayed until the Mysore brothers descended from the dais and spoke to them. “I wanted to see the princes of Mysore perform, that is why I attended the concert,” he said and blessed them, the duo recalled.

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