Indian Contemporary Musician, Sitar Player and Composer
Ravi Shankar, born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, aka Pandit
Indian Contemporary Musician, Sitar Player and Composer
I was invited for the first Woodstock. Actually, I started the program.
I will keep playing as long as my body lets me, and as long as I'm wanted by my listeners. Because music is the only thing that keeps me going.
If I go back in time, about 67 years when I was 20, and think about the dream and vision of what I had then for Indian classical music as a young aspiring musician, I have to admit that even though I have achieved more than I have ever dreamed of personally, I am disturbed to see the plight of it today here in India.
If you can win over your mind, you can win over the whole world.
In always wanting to be comfortable, you become lazy. In always wanting perfection, you become angry. In always wanting to be rich, you become greedy.
In India, I have been called a 'destroyer.' But that is only because they mixed my identity as a performer and as a composer. As a composer I have tried everything, even electronic music and avant-garde. But as a performer I am, believe me, getting more classical and more orthodox, jealously protecting the heritage that I have learned.
I have always had an instinct for doing new things. Call it good or bad, I love to experiment.
In the late sixties, I also presented the Festival of India (one) concerts; bringing artists like Shivkumar Sharma, Jitendra Abhisheki, Palghat Raghu and several others. In 1974 when George asked me to join him to perform for one half of his concert tours, I could have just gone myself but I told George that I want the world to see and hear all our wonderful music and musicians. George had not heard any of them. I suggested and took Hari Prasad, Shivkumar Sharma, L. Subramnaiam, T.V. Gopalakrishnan, Lakshmi Shankar, Allah Rakha, and few others, and we had a fantastic tour.
I have great difficulty sitting in the middle of the night and writing. Everything I do comes spontaneous. Sometimes it takes a long time; sometimes it comes just like that.
In the olden days, I believe Mozart also improvised on piano, but somehow in the last 200 years, the whole training of Western classical music - they don't read between the lines, they just read the lines.
I have my own spiritual guru, and I'm so happy, and I feel so satisfied that I might appreciate many other famous gurus, but, you know, I am not attracted that way because I have found the person.
In the U.K., classical music is composed by individuals and written down. Indian music is based on certain sequences called ragas. When I perform live, 95% of the music is improvised: it never sounds the same twice.
I implore students to volunteer help to their gurus and their schools and also help so many existing music institutions. If your guru has imparted his precious knowledge, it is most important for you to contribute with your time and get his blessings. It really makes me laugh when I see young and upcoming musicians talking so big and comparing themselves to legends and few even have their own foundation I believe!! There is a great saying in Benares, I am sorry its bit crude but so true "kal ka jogi (yogi) gantt mey jatah!!" Or something like: "An empty vessel makes more noise."
It is also very irritating for me when I see young musicians trying to sing or play a raga for a long time. It takes much experience to do that without repetition. It also makes me laugh when some idiots who know nothing about music appreciate and evaluate that as good just because he or she sang or played a raga for so long. One has to understand it is the quality and not the quantity.
I love the work of Matisse and Picasso, but I don't have enough millions to own one. And I don't really believe in owning art, anyway.
It is very important that our government introduces classical music, dance and other art forms on a compulsory basis right from the kindergarten level. We need a conservatory of music and music colleges. I wish all the millionaires and billionaires in India would contribute something to the art of their country. I am not condemning any type of music but when the whole world comes to see and visit India, it?s the incredible tradition of this wonderful country that attracts them.
I started out as a dancer, but gradually became more interested in music.
I tell you, deep inside you is a fountain of bliss, a fountain of joy. Deep inside your center core is truth, light, love, there is no guilt there, there is no fear there. Psychologists have never looked deep enough.
I think musicians and actors have all these problems, because of the popularity and the opportunity.
I try to give to my music the spiritual quality, very deep in the soul, which does something even if you are not realizing it or analyzing it - that's the duty of the music.
I was admired by all these hippies, and it was wonderful playing at Monterey and Woodstock, performing for half a million people.
I do think that my Indian classical audiences thought I was sacrificing them through working with George; I became known as the 'fifth Beatle.' In India, they thought I was mad.
I don't appreciate avant-garde, electronic music. It makes me feel quite ill.
Age is a cage where I sit and watch my youth pass by, Though I cannot run as fast as I did before, musically I think I am better than ever for sure. Should I be missing my youth, or thank the Lord and rejoice in the everlasting magic of the music.
I don't know what to say when you ask me if I did all my projects for money and fame. I have always bubbled with energy and desire to do new things and never bothered about the financial aspect of it. Never in my life have I sat back and settled with my laurels. I have gone further and further with wanting to do new things, experimenting with music, instruments and musicians and dancers. If I had just performed my concerts which I had plenty of, and wanted to make money, I would have been a multi-millionaire now. (I think the record was something like 43 concerts in 42 days in the late 60's. Penny Estabrook toured with me then and she can tell you about that.)