Ravi Shankar's legacy is his music - Shujaat Khan

Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:45pm IST

Sitar player Ravi Shankar welcomes the audience to his concert on stage at the Vienna State Opera House during the Jazz Festival Vienna 2005 on July 2, 2005. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer/Files

Sitar player Ravi Shankar welcomes the audience to his concert on stage at the Vienna State Opera House during the Jazz Festival Vienna 2005 on July 2, 2005.

Credit: Reuters/Herwig Prammer/Files

REUTERS - Shujaat Khan, sitar player and son of Ravi Shankar's contemporary Vilayat Khan, spoke to Reuters about the Grammy-winning sitarist and composer who died in southern California on Tuesday.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

"His legacy is his music. What he has done for music and the future of music. The biggest and largest contribution of any human being to put Indian classical music on the world map. My personal memories of him ... whenever I met him over the last 10 years, he used to always spend a certain amount of time with just me. He would lead me into his practice chamber -- no wife, students, no hangers-on. No one, just him and me. That private time, spent talking about music, about my father (Vilayat Khan), his teacher, my career, his love for life, those personal moments are very important for me.

"My father was supposedly, according to the world, a rival of Pandit Ravi Shankar ji and we used to sit and laugh about it. His acknowledgement of me as a musician, one of the futures of music, that is what I remember.

"Any musician, any professional in any field or any sportsmen, for example Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. These are healthy rivalries, which help you go further, achieve greater heights. The rivalries are also included with a huge amount of respect for each other. I have always heard my father and Pandit Ravi Shankar ji speak with great respect for each other. There was great respect and deep understanding for each other's music. This was big media hype. And why not, if there is no mirch masala in everyone's life, there is no fun. But my father was extremely respectful.

"His brother Uday Shankar also lived abroad and Ravi Shankar ji was travelling a lot with him. It was natural for him to further his career abroad. Whatever a person does in life, you open yourself to criticism. If you wanted to hear him perform, you could call him and he would perform here. He used to be here in the winters and perform. He chose to live abroad because he was more comfortable there. His daughters were born there. They are not Indians, they live there.

"Sometimes, he was disillusioned by the way the government treated him and he would get disillusioned by the people. Once in a while, he used to feel less than happy. Because of that we got to hear him less, but we heard him enough, mashallah. When he was playing concerts, he used to play many concerts here.

"I don't want to focus too much on this, at this time, but our government and the whole system of acknowledging greatness or acknowledging artists have always been according to how many people suck up to them. That is how the system works here. Other great artists who deserve so much more have not been able to toe the line to the government system of asking for things. And there are other non-deserving artists who ask for so much, who have done nothing on the world platform."

(As told to Shilpa Jamkhandikar)

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