The ICCR organised an evening, featuring prominent names, to pay tribute to the sitar legend, Pandit Ravi Shankar last Wednesday. The homage to the maestro, who is majorly responsible for taking Classical music to the west and bringing the musical worlds closer, was inaugurated with a tribute by Dr Karan Singh, member of Parliament and president ICCR.
Emphasising the importance and continued relevance of the gurushishya-parampara in classical music, he said, “The greatest tribute that one can pay Panditji, would be that we keep his music alive and continue to listen to his marvellous creations.” Remembering his humble nature Dr Singh said, “He was a great soul, soft spoken, affectionate and unforgettable. There is nobody who could achieve such great heights, not just in India, but globally.”
Starwarts like Padma Vibhushan Pt Birju Maharaj also paid his respects. “When I came to Sangeet Bharti, I was around fourteen years of age. Whenever I went to see Panditji, he greeted me very affectionately and often said to his Tabla player, ‘Now let Birju bhaiya play for sometime’. Even though I was much younger to him, Panditji fondly called me Birju bhaiya. He gave due space and respect to western music through his sitar which made him immensely popular globally”, he said.
A short film compiling Panditji’s performances at ICCR was screened at the event showcasing the close ties shared between Panditji and the ICCR, which can be traced to 1987. The film emphasised ICCR’s festival of India in USSR, which was inaugurated by President Mikhail Gorbachev and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. For this particular event Pandit Ravi Shankar had composed a collage of Indian and Russian music which was then staged at the historic concert, were 140 musicians from his ensemble, ministry of culture, USSR and the chamber orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic performed at the closing ceremony of the event.
Other eminent artists like Padma Vibhushan Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, Dr Sonal Mansingh, Pt. Debu Chaudhuri, Vinay Bharat Ram, Uma Sharma, Shovana Narayan, Bhajan Sopori, L K Pandit, Jatin Das, and Kiran Sehgal also spoke a few words in memory of Panditji.
Their tribute was followed by a sitar recital by Pt. Shubhendra Rao, who was a disciple of Panditji, and commonly addressed as the protégé of the maestro himself. Rao performed a composition in raga khamaj from Ravi Shankar’s album, Inside the Kremlin, released in 2001 which was complemented by Ustad Akram Khan on the tabla. This was followed by a Flute recital by Pt. Rajendra Prasanna in raga hamsadhwani. His recital was a duet with his son Rishab Prasanna, who also plays the flute, with Shubham Maharaj on the tabla.
Rao tells Guardian20 that his father, N. R. Rama Rao had been a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. He says, “The feeling of learning, not just about music but life from Panditji is so great that I can write books about the same. Since I was three, Panditji has been a constant influence. I began travelling with him at the age of 17 and will continue to be humbled by his music.”