Making Magic: Legendary Sitarist, Ravi Shankar

Yehudi Menuhin and Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar performing in Britain in January 1967.

The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument, originating from the Indian subcontinent, and Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) is its undisputed master. The great violinist, Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), who has long admired the mystique and magic of Indian music, paid this tribute to his friend in his characteristic tone of humility:

Ravi Shankar revealed to me a new dimension in music. It was thanks to him that I came to understand the religious quality of this art and the devotion and inspiration which it demanded … Indian music demands a mastery and a level of imagination almost unknown to us in the west. Since the written score does not exist as intermediary, the Indian musician must be at once both performer and composer … Before he can begin playing, he has to learn and assimilate a far stricter discipline than that of our classical tradition; he has to know hundreds of scales, with their infinite variations, and has to master the inexhaustible wealth of highly complex rhythmic combinations. The first time I heard Ravi Shankar play this music, which has neither beginning nor end, but which is fluid and moves like a river, I was astonished. For me, he is one of the world’s greatest musicians.”

~ Source: Yehudi Menuhin, The Violin: An Illustrated History, Flammarion, Paris, 1996.

A joyous performance by three music masters: Ravi Shankar on the sitar, Alla Rahka on the tabla and the renown violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Recorded in the album ‘East Meets West’, 1967.

Yehudi Menuhin talks about his musical “debt” to Ravi Shankar in this short video clip:

Leave a Reply