Forever photographed sitting cross-legged and clutching his sitar, with incense burning, Ravi Shankar has been credited with almost single-handedly spreading the age-long traditions of Indian classical music to the western world. He is renowned for his punishing work ethic and collaborations with George Harrison, Philip Glass and Yehudi Menuhin. This first authorised biography is the product of 25 years’ research and interviews. For fans of Shankar and Indian classical, Oliver Craske’s mighty work will surely be a delight.
It details Shankar’s career from a childhood spent performing as a dancer in his older brother Uday’s troupe to his tentative beginnings as a sitar soloist, training under guru Allauddin Khan. His fame soared during the hippy movement of the 1960s and he spent his twilight years as a recognised composer and Indian cultural ambassador. Craske has a deep understanding of the complex and nuanced traditions of Indian classical and emphasises throughout that “it is crucial to retain the Indian perspective”. He focuses not just on the virtuosic showmanship of speed and accuracy but rather “the very serene part of the music, the spiritual, devotional and soothing part”, as Shankar said.
Read the review in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 04/04/20]