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Ravi Shankar was an Indian musician and composer best known for popularizing the sitar and Indian classical music in Western culture.
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We had to drag him out. Learning under Baba was a double whammy—the whole tradition behind him, plus his own religious experience." The open-mindedness Khan showed toward other cultures is a quality that Shankar has personally retained throughout his life and career.
Ten years after meeting Khan and six years after beginning his music studies, Shankar's sitar training ended. Thereafter, he went to Mumbai, where he worked for the Indian People's Theater Association,
composing music for ballets until 1946. He went on to become music director of the New Delhi radio station All India Radio, a position he held until 1956. During his time at AIR, Shankar composed pieces for orchestra that mixed sitar and other Indian instruments with classical Western instrumentation. Also during this period, he began performing and writing music with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, with whom he would later record three songs: "West Meets East" (1967), "West Meets East, Vol. 2" (1968) and "Improvisations: East Meets West" (1977). All the while, the name Ravi Shankar was becoming more and more recognized internationally.
In 1954, Shankar gave a recital in the Soviet Union. In 1956, he debuted in the United States and Western Europe. Also helping his star rise was the score he wrote for famous Indian film director Satyajit Ray's The Apu Trilogy. The first of these films, Pather Panchali, won the Grand Prix—now known as the Golden Palm or Palme d'Or—at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. The prize is been awarded to the best film of the festival.
Already an ambassador of Indian music to the Western world, Shankar embraced this role even more fully in the 1960s. That decade saw Shankar's performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, as well as his set at Woodstock in 1969. Additionally, in 1965, George Harrison began studying sitar with Shankar, and even played the instrument on the Beatles' track "Norwegian Wood."
Shankar's partnership with Harrison proved to be even more significant years later. In 1971, Bangladesh became a hotbed of armed conflict between Indian and Muslim Pakistani forces. Along with the issues of violence, the country was inundated with ferocious flooding. Seeing the famine and hardship faced by the country's civilians, Shankar and Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh. The concert took place at Madison Square Garden and featured performers such as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Shankar and Harrison. Proceeds from the show, which is largely considered to be the first major modern charity concert, went to the aid organization UNICEF to help Bangladeshi refugees. Additionally, the album made for the benefit by the performing artists won the 1971 Grammy Award for album of the year.
From the 1970s to the early 21st century, Shankar's fame, recognition and achievement continued to grow steadily. In 1982, his score for Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi earned him an Oscar nomination. In 1987, Shankar experimented with adding electronic music to his traditional sound, sparking music's New Age movement.
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