In memoriam Disciples and music lovers in Hyderabad share fond memories of their association with Pandit Ravi Shankar. RANEE KUMAR listens in.
Pandit Ravi Shankar is one in a million, a name that tolled the bell of Indian instrumental music for the first time in the Western hemisphere. Indian classical music became identified with Ravi Shankar and vice-versa beyond the Indian seas.
Mohan Hemmadi of Surmandal, whose association with the Pandit spans across decades says, “I knew him from childhood. He happened to stay in the building where my family and I were living in Mumbai. It developed into a friendship and I became his manager at one point of time. Together we toured the Asian countries during his concerts. He was a forerunner who took music abroad for the first time and got a non-Indian audience to appreciate our music. He paved the way for later-day musicians. While many such musicians stayed back on Western soil, Ravi Shankar was like a sailor on high seas. The last time I went to the US, was to see him as I knew he was hospitalised but was not able to actually see him in person. I will be dedicating the forthcoming concert from Surmandal to his memory. He encouraged me to continue Surmandal and kept it going by coming often to perform for me. Together we started ‘Sur milan’ and performed with a host of Indian musicians in Hyderabad once.” There is a tinge of sadness and nostalgia in his tone.
Ravi Shankar’s personal life was an open book. But Hemmadi says he can only add a more personal touch to this great artist. “I was the one who arranged his marriage with Sukanya (Anouksha Shankar’s mother) at Chilkur Balaji temple in 1989 and discouraged his proposal of getting married in Tirupathi as that would mar his public image. He played at the morning concert for my organisation on the eve of his marriage. Veteran dancer Sumathi Kaushal and her husband gave away the bride in kanyadaan . And later of course I threw a party for him.”
R. Visweswaran, the well-known veena artiste of Mysore says, “Ravi Shankar was an artiste of high stature. The West related to his music as he was the earliest to reach out to them. He popularised Indian music in those countries.”
Raja Angara, a sitar artiste and shagird (disciple) of Ravi Shankar as well as his first wife Annapurna Devi says, “Panditji, as we all fondly know him, is no more. With him a magnificent era of musicianship has come to a close. The sound of his sitar deeply inspired me at an impressive age of 13 to take up the sitar. Panditji was an extraordinary force in the field of music and his versatility made him more than a ‘sitarist’. Belonging to the Maihar gharana and a disciple of the great Ustad Allaudin Khan saheb, Panditji went on to spread the musical traditions throughout the world. In the West he managed to serve Indian music in a manner that was both appealing and understandable to untrained ears. He never compromised on tradition and remained faithful no matter opinions to the contrary that did the rounds during his time. He is rightly called the music ambassador of India and till the very end played tirelessly. His contribution to music will live on forever in the hands of his innumerable disciples all over the world. As a person, he was full of wit and humour and he will remain immortal in the hearts of those of us who knew him closely.”
This is only a capsule of what this enormous treasure house called Ravi Shankar was all about.
He lives in the music of his own illustrious daughters Anouksha Shankar and Norah Jones, not to speak of all those disciples he moulded with his immaculate artistry.
The West related to his music as he was the earliest to reach out to them