It was March in the year 1931 and the place was Paris, the French capital. When the dance directed by the Indian choreographer Uday Shankar began, everybody was stunned. They saw a young boy merely 11 years of age, playing three musical instruments, the sitar, the sarod and the flute. The boy also played the child Krishna. It was the initiation of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s public musical performances.
He had a very close relation with France. Though was born in Varanasi (Kashi) and spent first decade of life there, yet he had his days of youth touring Europe with his choreographer brother Uday Shankar’s dance group. At the age of ten, leaving Varanasi, he went to Paris with Uday Shankar.
With the elder brother Uday Shankar, as the teenager Ravi Shankar also went on focusing on various French concerts, he found a grand enjoyment in the French artistic arena. All those stimulating experiences left a lifelong sense of art on the tender mind of youngster Ravi, which he expressed time to time later. Throughout his life, he always mentioned thankfulness for those concerts. That period of his young life in France was like a stem to the flower that blossomed in his artistic life soon after.
Pandit Ravi Shankar completed his training under Maihar gharana’s Ustad Allauddin Khan. Subsequently, with the intention to represent the inspirational side of Indian music traditions to the West, Pandit Ravi Shankar went to the West.
In Paris, in 1956, he was requested for a series of concerts on Indian classical music at the Musee Guimet. It was like an entry for him to the corridor of familiarity and professional knots with some of the best musicians. He had a number of concerts with them. His success never had any obstacle thereafter. In his days in France, he also trained many French artists to Indian classical music, John Coltrane, the saxophonist was one of the big names in them.
It was his stay in France that introduced a layer of boldness into his nature, with which he brought together Indian ragas with the western music. It was his fusion. He accepted it wholeheartedly. He loved it as a means of liberty to develop the mind’s eye about music. However, back in India, this irritated some of the music traditionalists. On the other hand, he also had a characteristic Indian heart believing musical instrument as a holy thing.
Yehudi Menuhin with Pandit Ravishankar & Ustad Allarkha
Possibly, it was Pandit Ravi Shankar who created fusion music, fusion of Indian Classical Music with the Western Music in particular. His group effort with the great violin player Yehudi Menuhin, made it a reality.
Panditji also created Shakti, which was teamwork between Western, Hindustani and Carnatic musicians. With the birth of Shakti, a clear passageway for fusion music was confidently laid down.
You can also read Yours in Music: A Graphic Autobiography by Ravi Shankar (Author)