This year marks the birth centenary of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, he played a key role in arranging 'The Concert for Bangladesh', the benefit events, along with former Beatles guitarist George Harrison, to raise international awareness and funds for refugees.
To celebrate Pandit Ravi Shankar's life and music, his family was planning a tour to celebrate his 100th birth anniversary in April, starting with a grand performance in London by his daughters Anoushka Shankar and Nora Jones, along with his students, disciples and collaborators, which would have been the first of an upcoming series of events. Unfortunately, the celebration has been hindered by the global crisis of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, tributes from different artistes poured in for the musical legend on social media, throughout yesterday. The maestro's daughter, Anoushka Shankar, in a Facebook and Instagram live session, shared a message with the audience. "It is normal for us to celebrate his birthday privately with some prayers and lighting a candle for him. Since we couldn't arrange the show for you tonight we felt that we'd share with you what we do to inspire ourselves. Music and art can do so much in times like this. It can heal and give us hope," she said. The familial event included a traditional ceremony of offerings and prayers.
Additionally, Anouska released a video, 'Sandhya Raga by Ravi Shankar', a performance by Ravi Shankar's students, on her YouTube channel. She wrote, "As part of the preparation for the centenary concerts, I've been having an illuminating time delving into my father's catalogue to make new arrangements of some of his incredible compositions. I couldn't bear the thought that we wouldn't be playing any of it tonight, so I asked many of my father's students to record from their own homes around the world so we could play for you. Here is a taster of what you will hear when we reschedule these shows!"
The participating musicians were Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (mohan veena) Shubhendra Rao (sitar) Guarav Mazumdar (sitar) Anoushka Shankar (sitar), Ravichandra Kulur (flute) Ashwani Shankar (shehnai) Bickram Ghosh (tabla) B C Manjunath (mridangam) Pirashanna Thevarajah (ghatam) Aditya Verma (sarod) and Barry Philips (cello). The video was edited by Anoushka Shankar.
Nora Jones in her social page shared a video of her playing I am Missing You, a western composition by her father, at home. In an interview with Subhash K Jha, Lata Mangeshkar has said that Pandit Ravi Shankar is in the same league as legends such as Tansen, Beethoven and Mozart.
Musician Dhani Harrison, son of Pandit Ravi Shankar's long-time collaborator George Harrison, also shared a heartfelt post about him on Facebook. Modern tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh shared a piece of 50 beats, titled 'Gurupranam'. Demonstrating the unique progression and regression of the taal, Ghosh gave a brief solo performance.
The new authorised biography on Pandit Ravi Shankar released on April 2, in time for his hundredth birthday by Oliver Craske. The writer has carried out more than 130 new interviews and had unprecedented access to the Shankar family archives.