Composer and musician Ravi Shankar passed away Tuesday. As our own Kavita Das, who has studied Shankar’s life and work, put it, he was “the singular greatest cultural ambassador, composer, and innovator of Indian music of our times.”
Shankar died Tuesday at age 92. A statement on his website said he died in San Diego, near his Southern California home with his wife and a daughter by his side. Shankar had suffered from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last Thursday. Though the surgery was successful, recovery proved too difficult for the 92-year-old musician.
A Bengali Brahmin, he was born Robindra Shankar on April 7, 1920 in Varanasi, the youngest of four brothers, and spent his first 10 years in relative poverty, brought up by his mother. He was almost eight before he met his absent father, a globe-trotting lawyer, philosopher, writer and former minister to the Maharajah of Jhalawar.
In 1930, his eldest brother Uday Shankar uprooted the family to Paris, and over the next eight years Shankar enjoyed the limelight in Uday’s troupe, which toured the world introducing Europeans and Americans to Indian classical and folk dance.
As a performer, composer and teacher, Shankar was an Indian classical artist of the highest rank, and he spearheaded the worldwide spread of Indian music and culture, said writer and editor Oliver Craske, who provided additional narrative for Shankar’s autobiography ‘Raga Mala’.
Ravi Shankar maintained residences in both India and the United States. He is survived by his wife Sukanya; daughter Norah Jones; daughter Anoushka Shankar Wright and husband Joe Wright; 3 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.
Memorial plans will be announced. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Ravi Shankar Foundation. Donations can be made online at JustGive.org.
This post has been updated since publication.