RAGA MALA by Ravi Shankar


The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar
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Blending first-person narrative with the voices of many acclaimed performers and close friends, legendary sitar player and Indian musical ambassador Shankar tells his story, replete with art, philosophy, and unforgettable encounters. The gods were gracious to Shankar, granting him the excellence in a range of fields for which an ordinary human being would need a slew of reincarnations. He began his career as a dancer, choreographer, and musician in his brother’s troupe, which toured extensively in Europe and America in the 1930s. Already accustomed to a celebrity lifestyle in his teens, Ravi returned to India in order to study with music guru Allaudin Khan, who demanded harsh discipline and total submission. After seven years mastering the sitar, Shankar, married and with a small child, started composing ballet scores for the “cultural squad” of the Communist Party. Soon disillusioned by its stifling ideology, he turned to traditional Indian wisdom, learning from yogis like Tat Baba and Sai Baba. At 29, Shankar assumed the post of Music Director at All India Radio. Later he began blending Indian and Western sonorities, a path that would eventually lead him to joint concerts with George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin, and the London Symphony. Though criticized for “commercializing” his heritage by playing to huge hippie audiences, Shankar always sought to educate his Western listeners about the principles of Indian music and to instill in them respect for his sacred art. While performing and recording around the world, he found time to compose film scores, set up music schools in India and California, take on disciples, write books, serve in Parliament, and engage in amorous adventures. But the most lyrical and introspective pages of his autobiography are reserved for his wife, Sankya, and his daughter and musical disciple, Annoushka. Unpretentious and spiritually illuminating as Shankar’s music.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-56649-104-5
Page count: 352pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999


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