Indian sitar icon Ravi Shankar has died at the age of 92 after a short illness.
The musician is best known for having influenced George Harrison in the 1960s, which led to the Beatles’ experimentation with sitar and Indian music.
Born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, Shankar was often known by the title Pandit. He began studying the plucked string instrument in 1938 and worked as a composer throughout the 1940s and 50s.
In 1966 he taught Harrison to play sitar, leading to its appearance on the track Within You Without You on the Beatles’ groundbreaking Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – listed as the greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone.
Shankar appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where he was shocked to see Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar, saying: “In our culture we have respect for instruments – they are like part of God.” He also performed at the Woodstock festival two years later and at Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.
He worked with Yehudi Menuhin, Philip Glass and John Coltrane, among others, and wrote the score for many films including Si Richard Attenborough’s Ghandi, which gained him an Oscar nomination. He won three Grammys during his lifetime.
The father of singer Norah Jones and sitarist Anoushka Shankar, he was once called the “godfather of world music” by Harrison.
Shankar was admitted to hospital in San Diego last week with breathing difficulties, and failed to recover from surgery.
In a statement his family said: “Unfortunately his body was not able to withstand the strain. We were at his side when he passed away.
“Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as part of our lives. He wil love for ever in our hearts and in his music.”
Indian movie composer Vishal Dadlani called Shankar “the world’s best-known exponent of music” added: “He influenced the Beatles, and hence everything since.” Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh said he was “a national treasure and a global ambassador.”
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