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Shifts, Sounds and Shankar

December 12, 2012 4 comments

Our lives are filled with shifts: seismic, paradigmatic, geographical, sociological, personal, and spiritual shifts. Big and small. And our lives are filled with sound: rhythm, and repetition – music, chant, song, verse, and spoken word.

Endings. Beginnings.

Today is filled with the feeling of a shift. We are aware of the date, and we are in the moment: 12/12/12. Some might note that it is an end…there won’t be another repetitive date for lifetimes, not until January 1, 3001. A door, closing and transformational. Others may say its a number sequence filled with magic and mystery. A portal, open and transformational.

And many of us woke up to the news of Ravi Shankar’s passing.

While Bruce Lee is credited with opening a door to the world of martial arts and to Eastern thought through Chinese philosophy, George Harrison also influenced a cultural shift that would define a generation.

George Harrison was a seeker, looking for a deeper meaning to life beyond the material world and the confusion of fame. He played an instrumental role (pun intended and unintended) in changing how we listen to music, raising our awareness of the global community, opening a door not only to Indian and to world music, but also to Eastern philosophy through Indian thought, practice and meditation. The bridge between East and West was built, note by note, through his friendship, mentorship and collaboration with legendary virtuoso Ravi Shankar.

Pandit Ravi Shankar, from Varnasi, an ancient and holy Indian city, had played with Western artists like John Coltrane prior to his meeting Harrison, though it was his musical collaboration with the Beatles that sent his career soaring, elevating him to cultural ambassador, and introducing classical Indian ragas to the world. He played Woodstock, Monterey and organized the first-ever music fundraiser, held at Madison Square Garden, The Concert for Bangladesh. (The 12/12/12 Benefit Concert for Hurricane Sandy is rightfully part of his legacy, also held at MSG). During his career he played classical Indian music, but also experimented with different genres and collaborated with many artists. His soundtrack for the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray is as haunting as are films (see them if you can).

He remained, throughout his life, an electrifying force and powerful presence in world music. Sounds and shifts. Endings, beginnings. A door, closing and transformational. A portal, open and transformational.

Ravi Shankar (1920 – 2012)

Toni Tan

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