Rare footage has emerged of Ravi Shankar playing the sitar with George Harrison in a psychedelic ’60s environment. The short film has been released to celebrate what would have been Shankar’s 100th birthday (April 3), capturing the essence of his creative brilliance.
Shankar is regarded as the true virtuoso of the sitar, attaining recognition on the global spectrum after his student, George Harrison pioneered the Indian master’s elaborate teachings back into Westernised pop culture.
The new clip of Ravi Shankar mentoring George Harrison has been released in celebration of the sitar maestro’s 100th birthday.
George Harrison was first introduced to the music of Ravi Shankar by David Crosby, from The Byrds and later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, in the summer of 1965. Harrison became infatuated in this new type of world music, and intrigue eventually led him to Asia, where he began a spiritual journey that would shift the discourse of Indian classical music forever.
Harrison once stated that, Ravi Shankar “is the “the godfather of world music”. George and Ravi would begin a lifelong journey of companionship and learning which would see them retain a mutual respect for each other’s creative musical talents.
“It is strange to see pop musicians with sitars. I was confused at first. It had so little to do with our classical music. When George Harrison came to me, I didn’t know what to think,” says Ravi Shankar in Raga, a 1971 documentary. “But I found he really wanted to learn. I never thought our meeting would cause such an explosion, that Indian music would suddenly appear on the pop scene.”
The rare footage has been shared by The Ravi Shankar Foundation with the BBC to commemorate what would have been the artist’s 100th birthday. The short clip delves into the archives by re-surfacing live footage of Shankar working his magic hand up-and-down the neck of the sitar, which directly translates to ‘three-stringed’ instrument in English.
Sadly, Ravi Shankar passed away in 2012 at the age of 92, after undertaking heart surgery. Speaking to the BBC about her father’s legacy, Anoushka Shankar said: “Most people across cultures and generations seem to know the name Shankar. There definitely were decades where he was the household Indian name that was putting India on the map, culturally and artistically.”
Ravi’s daughter also kindly added that reminiscing on footage such as this, can generate “positivity” in times where she urges people to harmonise and turn “into their kind of higher selves”.
“Any art, anything that helps people do that has incredible value,” advises Anoushka.
Simultaneously, George Harrison’s Material World Foundation have contributed a helping hand during the coronavirus pandemic by donating $500 000 to a series of charities including MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, Save the Children, and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
The outstanding legacy of musicians such as Ravi Shankar and George Harrison will continue to flourish. The strong lattice that was formed is a beautiful example of the culture merging of art.