The first full biography of Ravi Shankar, India’s most important cultural figure of the past century.
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A Times, Spectator, TLS and BBC Music Magazine Book of the Year
A major biography of Ravi Shankar published on the centenary of his birth: the first full portrait of the man and the artist across his extraordinary ninety-two years.
As an icon of India, Ravi Shankar ranks not far below Gandhi or the Taj Mahal. He was one of the twentieth century’s most important musicians, and India’s greatest cultural ambassador. The maestro of the sitar filled the world’s leading concert halls, festival stages and airwaves with Indian classical music at a time when it was little known outside its homeland.
A sensation at Monterey Pop, the Woodstock Festival and the Concert for Bangladesh, he also helped reshape jazz, minimalism and electronic music, pioneered the sitar concerto, and wrote many film scores, including Pather Panchali and Gandhi. He charted the map for countless global musicians who followed in his wake. The unparalleled breadth of his impact is reflected in his disciples, who included George Harrison, John Coltrane, Philip Glass and Yehudi Menuhin.
For this first biography of Ravi Shankar, Oliver Craske has carried out more than 130 new interviews and enjoyed unprecedented access to the Shankar family archives. He presents the first full portrait of the man and the artist, painting a vivid picture of the public and private faces of a captivating, restless workaholic who lived an intense and extraordinary life across ninety-two years. He investigates Shankar’s childhood traumas and youthful stardom as a dancer, his intensive study of the sitar and his leading role in the revival of Indian classical music in his homeland, and his subsequent international career that ultimately made his name synonymous with India. Throughout, this biography seeks to answer the question of what impelled Ravi Shankar on an unending creative and emotional quest.
[A] superlative biography ... A masterly chronicle of a life teeming with all-too-human incident but heavenly inspiration.
This is a meticulously researched biography, detailed, judicious, engaging and illuminating. Not since Marie Seton’s Portrait of a Director: Satyajit Ray (1971), has anything comparable been attempted for a major contemporary Indian cultural figure.
A wonderful book.
Richly researched and elegantly written… I strongly recommend it to music lovers and students of cultural history.
In Craske, Shankar has attracted a biographer who understands the intricacies of classical Indian music ... He wears his expertise lightly and his passion on his sleeve: a winning combination for a definitive work.
Compendious and immensely readable ... Shankar’s impact—and, through him, Indian music’s—on western rock, jazz and classical music has been profound. Craske’s biography is a reminder that we’re only now beginning to understand the cultural interfaces preceding Shankar and succeeding him, which shaped the sounds we’ve been hearing for over a century.
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