Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitar virtuoso who helped bring some of the most outstanding classical music and dance from his motherland to Southern California through an arts nonprofit that regularly holds concerts at Occidental College, died in San Diego Tuesday. He was 92.
Shankar co-founded the Music Circle in 1973 in a flash of inspiration while taking a walk on the Oxy campus. Along with co-founder and compatriot Harihar Rao, he walked into Herrick Chapel, where “sunlight was streaming in through large stained glass windows,” according to a book excerpt posted on the Music Circle website. “In the peaceful stillness of this sacred place two men, lovers of music, decided to create the Music Circle.”
Shankar died at 4:30 p.m., according to a statement on his website after undergoing heart valve replacement surgery last week, Stuart Wolferman, a publicist for his record label, Unfinished Side Productions, told the Los Angeles Times.
Shankar, who taught guitarist George Harrison of the Beatles how to play the sitar in the 1960s, was the father of five-time Grammy winning singer Norah Jones.
Shankar's collaboration with Harrison led to the first big rock music benefit, the Concert for Bangladesh, in 1971, shortly after the Asian nation was born from the ashes of a devastating war against Pakistan. The concert, which raised funds for Bangladeshi war refugees streaming into India, comprised two shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The performers included Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Shankar.
Harrison produced and participated in two albums with Shankar, titled “Shankar Family & Friends” and “Festival of India." The Beatle, who died in 2001, called Shankar “the godfather of world music.”
Besides composing for movies and ballets, Shankar also performed at two of rock music’s most famous concerts—Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival. He authored violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal and collaborated with composer Phillip Glass.
“His genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of Mozart’s,” Menuhin, who died in 1999, once said. Shankar trained his other daughter, Anoushka Shankar, on the sitar and she has been nominated for a Grammy Award.
A lecturer at UC San Diego, Shankar gave his final concert on Nov. 4 at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach.
In addition to his daughters, he is survived by his wife, Sukanya, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
— City News Service contributed to this article.