Ravi Shankar, who died aged 92, in December 2012, was the musical visionary who thanks to the cultural influences of his family, the advantages of a disciplined classical background and a heady sixties association with George Harrison and The Beatles, established the sitar and the raga into western consciousness. He was thus the first performer and composer to bridge the musical gap between India and the west.
Ravi Shankar is already considered to have been one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century.
Ravi's first musical ventures were as a child, appearing in his brother Uday's dance company in America and France. In his teens he was apprenticed to the sarod master, Allauddin Khan under who's demanding tutelage he would inherit the great tradition of Indian classical music.
By the time his first met George Harrison and Paul McCartney in 1966, Shankar had given recitals with Khan's son, the sarodist, Ali Akbar Khan, served as musical director of All India Radio's first National Orchestra, and been sent to all points on cultural tours by the Indian government. He had composed elegant film themes for Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy, and taught and befriended the jazz musicians John Coltrane and Don Ellis.
Ravi met the Beatles at a point when the Fab Four were looking to expand their musical language and to make deeper artistic statements. Legend has it that they had already been introduced to Ravi's music by Byrds guitarist Roger McGuinn at an LSD party in Los Angeles and indeed they dabbled with the sitar on the 1965 hit, Norwegian Wood. On meeting Ravi Shankar, George Harrison determined to take the instrument seriously, soon journeying to meet Ravi in India for a period of intensive tuition. There by the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar, the guitarist was inspired to write Within You Without You for the album, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles' tribute to Ravi Shankar.