x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Shankar to the world

The world will miss Ravi Shankar, the sitar-playing virtuoso who bridged musical cultures and introduced classical Indian compositions to so much of the world.

Before technology, "globalisation" was carried on the backs of living, breathing cultural giants who spanned our different worlds. The Beachboys in the US; the Beatles in Britain. Omar Sharif became a symbol representing all of Egypt; Fayrouz's ballads are still sung far beyond her native Lebanon.

One such gentle titan passed away on Tuesday. Born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, in the Indian city of Varanasi, generations of music lovers have known him as Ravi Shankar, or Pandit, the sitar-playing virtuoso who bridged musical cultures and introduced classical Indian compositions to so much of the world.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said yesterday that India had lost a "national treasure". Indeed it has, but this is not India's loss alone. Shankar was often recognised for his collaborations with The Beatles beginning in the 1960s; cinema-loving audiences might remember him for the scores in Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy. But his true legacy is nearly 70 years of performances around the world, dozens of recordings and his two talented daughters - Anoushka, his performing partner, and the singer/songwriter Norah Jones.

Indian pop culture is global today, with Bollywood dance hits drawing some of the biggest crowds worldwide. Shankar is a reminder, and an example, of the many different notes of India's older musical heritage.