For many Americans, Ravi Shankar is Indian music, and it’s easy to picture him woodshedding somewhere in his native land as a young prodigy. But the tireless promoter of North Indian classical performance is in fact a lifelong globe-trotter–at age nine he left India with brother Uday Shankar’s dance troupe, which based itself in Paris and toured Europe and the U.S. After nearly a decade of dancing, writing, and painting, as well as playing all variety of instruments, Ravi finally settled into an intensive course of study with renowned master musician Allaudin Khan and thereafter devoted his life to music. He made his first U.S. appearances on sitar in 1957; participated in various, sometimes unsuccessful East-West summits with jazz musicians and symphony orchestras; and of course inspired the Beatles to introduce sitar to pop music, which they did in 1965 with “Norwegian Wood.” For his efforts, he accumulated a pair of Grammys. But in spite of his role as the great popularizer Shankar remains one of the most revered performers in Indian music history, recognized by even the most persnickety sitar snob as a brilliant improviser and accomplished scholar. Now 78, Shankar travels less assiduously–last year’s U.S. tour, in support of his George Harrison-produced CD Chants of India (Angel), was canceled due to health problems, and this year he’s playing only six concerts on these shores–but he’s still active and totally absorbing. For this performance, his only in the area, he’ll be accompanied by his 16-year-old daughter, Anoushka, also a sitarist. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000. JOHN CORBETT
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Marianne Barcellana.