How often does one get to begin a year listening to blissful music and New Year greetings from a wizard?

Chennai’s music lovers did, quite often, in the 1960s and 1970s — at The Music Academy on December 31.

Pandit Ravi Shankar gave an annual performance on New Year’s eve, at the Academy, for many years, and listeners would watch him awe-struck and wait eagerly for midnight.

The maestro had a strong Chennai connection and a long friendship with several artistes in the city.

“He is a colossus. During his New Year concerts at the Academy, he would pause for a moment at 12 and wish his fans. It was a thrilling moment for the audience,” said N. Murali, president, The Music Academy.

Pandit Ravi Shankar was honoured with the ‘Special Platinum Jubilee Award’ by the Academy, in December 2002.

Carnatic musicians have had a special place in their hearts for the world-renowned artiste. Three veteran violinists spoke to The Hindu on Pandit Ravi Shankar’s music and their relationship with him.

T.N. Krishnan, who has had a long association with Pandit Ravi Shankar, said, “His music was just like him — simple and very pleasing. It appealed to both — the scholars and the layman. He had a rather charming personality and he was never harsh with anyone — he was always pleasant and very polished. His music was a bit hit in Chennai.”

Observing that the sitar maestro was a serious listener, Prof. Krishnan said, “He would analyse whatever he heard and reflect deeply on it.”

Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, who has had several engaging discussions with the maestro, said, Pandit Ravi Shankar’s music was steeped in aesthetics.

“His passion was evident. He would go to concert venues in advance to check every aspect, including the colour of the backdrop. He liked an agarbatti to be lit there, as he considered the performance space very sacred. Everything about his music was very tasteful. As much as he was particular about tradition, he was always open to new ideas and that made him the great musician he was.”

M.S. Gopalakrishnan, an exponent of both Carnatic and Hindustani music, remembers Pandit Ravi Shankar’s visit to their Mylapore residence in the 1940s.

“He had great regard for my father Parur Sundaram Iyer. During his visit, he played for about four hours at our place. He rendered ragas like Ahir Bhairav, Jaijavanti and I still remember those very special moments.”

He emphasised the credentials of Hindustani music among the Western audience and won Indian music a global audience, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said. “That is an unsurpassable feat.”

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