Noted violinist N. Rajam in her message said: “I have had the good fortune of knowing Pandit Ravi Shankar for several years. I have earned his good wishes, blessings, and affection on several occasions. He is one of those rare personalities we all would love to have amidst us forever. The natural law of life and death should not be applicable to such legends. But well, that’s not possible.
Raviji, his personality, his contribution to the world of music, particularly to the sitar – it has made him an all-time great. If Indian Music is so popular in the West, and so many musicians go abroad to give concerts, the entire credit must go to him. The number of westerners who have started taking interest in Indian music and the huge number of universities, where music is taught, is all because of Raviji. He worked with two very different kinds of musicians – The Beatles and Yehudi Menuhin. In fact, he was such a big influence on Yehudi Menuhin that the latter came to appreciate Indian music because of Pandit Ravi Shankar. They played together on several occasions. What is truly commendable is his open attitude towards music. Normally, classical musicians do not look beyond their own genre. But Raviji was rare – he had space for all forms. He has done a lot of work in bridging different styles of music and the credit should go to him. I feel he should be seen as one of the major forces who made Indian music a sensation to the Western consciousness.
Since I spent 40 years in Varanasi at the Banaras Hindu University, I had the opportunity of meeting him and spending time with him each time he visited Varanasi. I still vividly remember the grand occasion of his 50th birthday. We invited him to Varanasi to celebrate the occasion. It was on a grand scale, and there was a grand ceremonial procession of 50 cars. Many top ranking musicians were invited. He gave a very memorable recital with Kishen Maharaj on the tabla. It was a great occasion.
Raviji was instrumental in bringing several Carnatic ragas into the Hindustani music. That’s his solid contribution. He trained many students who have earned a big name. With his demise, there’s a huge void that can never be filled. However, his contributions are immortal.
Raviji was very simple and approachable. His guru Baba Allauddin Khan was an epitome of simplicity. I once played for Baba in Maihar — he was so appreciative. He picked up my violin and was so mesmerised by it. Baba was God fearing and was passionate about music. Ravi Shankar was similar. They were all children of Goddess Saraswati.
I was playing in London many years ago, and Raviji turned up. I cannot forget that occasion; he sat through the concert, blessed me and gave very valuable inputs. I simply don’t accept when people call him a ‘showman’. Every show has to be presented attractively, and Panditji did it with flair. My condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.” (As told to Deepa Ganesh)