Remembering Pandit Ravi Shankar

Delhi will host a two-day festival where all the performing instrumentalists are disciples of maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar or had a link with him

Pandit Ravi Shankar was born in 1920 and in his centenary year there is a spate of memorial concerts all across the world. The SRF Foundation, (incidentally whose chairman Arun Bharatram is himself a senior sitar disciple of the legendary maestro,) with SPIC MACAY is also holding a two-day festival where all the performing instrumentalists are disciples of Pandit Ravi Shankar or had a link with him, informed Arun Bharatram.

Padma Vibhushan Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia had performed in the sitar maestro's orchestras several times, despite learning from his estranged wife Annapurna Devi. Hari ji said "I remember George Harrison insisted I tour with them all; and of course I had very good relations with Raviji and shared many happy times together. Guru Ma never objected to my working and touring with Panditji". He will be performing on February 29.

Ustad Zakir Hussain, who had a close relationship with Pandit Ravi Shankar from his birth onwards, will be accompanying Hariji.

Grammy winner Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt on his modified guitar will also be playing as will sitarist Pandit Shubhendra Rao. Recalling his Guru, Shubhendra said, "I can never forget the naughty twinkle in his eyes when he played the romantic raga Tilak Shyam (his own creation), Manj Khamaj or Rasiya. Nor the spiritual depth one finds in his raga Parameshwari. His sitar concertos, his compositions like 'Live in the Kremlin', the theme song of the Asian Games, his music in films like the Apu Trilogy, Anuradha, Gandhi all showcase the genius that he was, absolutely unparalleled. A purist to the core, an experimentalist without fear, a trendsetter in whatever he did – he was a true icon."

The only santoor disciple of the legend, Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya shared how he first met Panditji in 1982 at a recording studio in Daryaganj, Delhi. Flustered at meeting this legendary person, he spoke to him in Hindi and Raviji laughingly rebuked him, saying as they were both Bengalis, they should converse in Bengali. "He was a great Guru, devta samaan they. It was not only raga but was santoor techniques that he taught me. It is he who taught me how to execute 'meends' on the santoor. It didn't matter that he was a sitar player". Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya will be playing on February 29.

Sarodiya Pandit Parthosarathy humbly said, "Sharing the same stage as the legend was good enough. I remember so many great concerts with Guruji – Royal Albert Hall in London and Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata were the most memorable."

Sanjeev and Ashwini Shankar on the shehnai are perhaps the legend's youngest disciples. They started learning from him in 2003. Sanjeev wistfully shared how when their Guru first asked them to play for him before accepting them as his disciples, they furiously rehearsed day and night to present better. When in Delhi, he would teach every from 9 am to 1 pm, Sanjeev said; when they travelled abroad, they would play 20-25 concerts a month, he recalled.

Pandit Bickram Ghosh will be accompanying the instrumentalists on the tabla. He too has a long cherished association with Pandit Ravi Shankar and accompanied him all over the world in his later years.

The other musicians are vocalists Begum Parveen Sultana and Vidushi Ashwini Bhide. Arun Bharatram shared that Ashwini ji had learnt some ragas and compositions from Pandit Ravi Shankar and was close to him, hence her inclusion. Begum Parween Sultana however did not have a special connection with the legend, he said.

Arun Bharatram said, "There is a big memorial concert in London on his birthday in April so I wanted our tribute in Delhi to not clash in any way date wise with all the performing artists."

The festival will be at Nehru Park, on February 29 and March 1, from 5 pm onwards, and is free.

(The author of this article writes on music, musicians and matters of music)

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