In Conversation Music

Pt. Ravi Shankar’s wife Sukanya on life with the restless explorer

Pt. Ravi Shankar and Sukanya Shankar

Pt. Ravi Shankar and Sukanya Shankar

For the past three years, Sukanya Shankar had been planning hard, along with daughter Anoushka, to make her late husband and iconic musician, Pt. Ravi Shankar’s birth centenary (April 7) a memorable affair for music lovers, especially his many admirers across the globe. Though disappointed that the events had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, she is delighted to talk about life spent with "one of the most charming men with exceptional musical insights and a great sense of humour."

In the 40 years she knew him, Sukanya believes there never was a dull moment, since the ace sitarist was a restless explorer. “My journey with him was without any bumps and crashes. It was smooth, beautiful and magical.”

Sukanya met Pt. Ravi Shankar for the first time in 1973, when she accompanied him on the tanpura at his concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Fascinated as much by him as his music, she married him in 1989, becoming an integral part of his art that transcended culture and geography.

“Yes, he was a pioneer of collaborative music and a peerless one at that. Always ahead of his time, he has composed three concertos for sitar, a symphony, a music theatre and an opera. He even composed for Western instruments and musicians. He experimented with electronic music. Whatever musicians are doing today, he had done 20 years ago. I have seen him work with Yehudi Menuhin, Jean Pierre Rampal, Philip Glass, George Harrison, Rostropovich, Herbie Hancock and more. Sitar was just a medium for him to engage with people around the world.”

Being in awe of his genius, Sukanya enjoyed observing him when he worked on his multiple musical projects. “But whenever I am asked to talk about his music, I find it difficult to sum up his passion and a lifetime work in a few sentences,” she says. “He introduced ragas into the Western consciousness. Panditji could do that because he was truly liberated. There was an aura of spirituality in the concert hall when he performed. He took the music and the tradition of his country to the rest of the world and in the process, touched millions of souls.”

Taking extreme care to keep his legacy alive, Sukanya was elated when Anoushka began to share the stage with her father. “We both wanted her to do what she desired to. Of course, we wanted to expose her to music. She studied the sitar, the Western classical piano and did well academically too. I am grateful to God for what she is today, not just a fantastic musician, but a responsible and caring human being,” says Sukanya, now a doting grandmother to Anoushka’s sons, Zubin and Mohan.

Also read: ‘Pt. Ravi Shankar was as much India’s sun: Oliver Craske’


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Printable version | May 15, 2022 1:07:34 am | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/sukanya-shankar-reminisces-on-her-life-with-a-restless-explorer/article31413663.ece