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Sitar Star

When Pandit Ravi Shankar was beckoned to the West thanks mainly to The Beatles in the 1960s, many purists in India thought he had betrayed his musical heritage. But the sitarist and composer proved them wrong as his reputation grew steadily. He was perhaps the first Indian to realize music had become globalized, and that a classic musician from one country could do profound work joining hands with someone like renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Shankar wrote two concertos for Menuhin and himself and has collaborated with masters like flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal and composer Phillip Glass. 'Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift and through him I have added a new dimension to my experience of music,' Menuhin said over 30 years ago. 'To me, his genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of Mozart's.'

The maestro, who has also scored music for several Hollywood films
in his words
'I told people, 'Give me the chance to make you high through our music,' which it does, really. I think it's good I made that stand, and that's why I'm still here today.'
Photo: Indranil Mukherjee /
AFP/Getty Images
including Charly and the British epic Gandhi, has also successfully launched the musical career of his daughter Anoushka. In India, he composed the music for Satyajit Ray's landmark films comprising the Apu trilogy in the 1950s. Even while living in the West, he made time to compose music for a handful of Indian films, like the Gulzar-directed Meera. He has also remained the voice of reason in the Indian community, decrying the efforts of fundamentalists in India.

Shankar is much more than a celebrated musician. He has backed many progressive causes, and his concert for not-yet-born Bangladesh, along with George Harrison at Madison Square Garden in New York, helped raise the consciousness of the world at large to the plight of ordinary people in that country.

With the acclaim he has received in the music industry, in Hollywood and in the holistic community where his friends and admirers include bestselling writer Deepak Chopra, the innovative musician and composer is one of the deans of the Indian community in America.