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I am. Ravi Shankar's the self-proclaimed messenger of the spiritual mysteries of the city as well as a virtuoso of its magic sound. He has been a claim one of India's most celebrated classical musicians and more recently has captured the heart of Western music lovers. The pop culture in particular. Ravi Shankar will be our featured guest tonight on pantechnicon. And that new magazine on the arts entertainment and new ideas brought you in part to a grant from the Korea cooperation of Lowell Massachusetts. And Eleanor stout. And I Frankfurt's Morris. Ravi Shankar was born in the holy city of Bonaire is the son of a family of Brahmans Shankar started out of a dance company of his older brother who did a show on guard. He had already toured the world several times when he decided to take sitar instruction from a low income. Who is known in India as the father of instrumental music. And it was now Ravi Shankar's father in law. Ravi Shankar's music has been established in the West for over
21 years. In 1954 he first played the sitar in the West. If performances were successful in a limited way. These audiences were comprised of experts impresarios and aesthete. From 1954 to 1964 he continued to introduce the sitar to limited Western audiences and it gradually became more popular with musicians and music lovers who were accustomed to vastly different sounds and musical sensations. Suddenly the rhythms of the sitar were discovered by teenagers. And what is now known as the sitar explosion followed. Ravi Shankar's music is a blend of sensuous roundness and serene refinement which is why Western youth responded to him so spontaneously. It was the Beatles who opened up his music to the young culture. His record sales of more than doubled since meeting George Harrison but the music is not rock and roll and is one of the world's oldest and most sophisticated arts. John Guy has received critical acclaim for ingeniously blending the musical styles of the east and
west. He has composed extensively for the ballet and the cinema including the music for the film pumped up and Charlie and the Hollywood production of Charlie his music has been played by the London Symphony Orchestra and has also performed at Woodstock the Monterey Pop Festival and Lincoln Center tonight at 8:00 p.m.. Ravi Shankar along with other aka another master of Indian music will give us a talk and tabla concert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Mr. Shank I understand that the London Symphony Orchestra has worked with the London Symphony Orchestra have you. Have you done solo work with them and written sitar music for them. Well this was this attack concert with Symphony Orchestra that I wrote specially for them. I performed twice and then we may create an album which is an NGO record. What a job that must have been working with the full symphony Were you a little nervous about something like this this undertaking. Well it was a tremendous challenge for me and I was commissioned to
write this piece and it was very exciting experience. Was it a full symphony that you worked with. Yeah so full symphony. How long did it take you to compose this. Well it took me almost two and half months but that was why I love us touring otherwise I might have taken you less. And how did you work out the integration of the sitar with a full symphony orchestra in your in your score. You see I wanted to make it as much Indian as possible was therefore my approach was more being within the Iraq which is our melody forms you know and the calibrated mix active forms. So I kept it very melodic and I used the whole symphony orchestra more often more like an extension and all the dynamic and sound range tone range so it turned out to be really interesting. You've composed I understand for a couple of film tracks anyway. One of them
was a Hollywood production called Charlie and I was very curious as to how you you went about composing music for a Hollywood production. Well this is another really strange sort of challenge because the story didn't have anything Indian in it you see. And so it was a very interesting subject and it turned out to be a pretty effective system. How did you what did you do or did you have to be on the set while they were shooting and get a sense in rhythm of the movie and then you wrote your your music. I wrote yes naturally I had to see it few times I discussed with the director and I wrote out almost something like 40 percent of the music and then the rest said I would like to do on the stage. You know like like improvising which is a pretty much costlier thing. It meant the producer everything and happy because it it took more time but you know all those dollar bills that were really being added up it takes
I think it turns out much better as as far as I'm concerned. And of course this way of working to sort of compose as you go along is is as I understand it inherent part of Indian music the raga is is improvised a great deal isn't it. Yes exactly that's the whole thing I mean we are used more to do spontaneously you know. And then an Indian musician more or less he's composing on to town rather improvising within the set at Patton and the jacket that he chooses and the style of the TV tax.
There are as I understand it there are two forms there are two systems of Indian music and one of them is what does it the Hindustani Hengest Hindustani of the knot and the Carnatic of the South India and what's the difference between the two and in which one do you use. I belong to the Hindustani system to not basically they have the same foundation you know. But it is somewhere in 13th century that you can discover from between the two and it isn't for that rise. On the outside you know aliens are coming in attacking and North was very disturbed. So many of the musicians and musicologist event solved. And the second reason is also because the whole of our music musical tradition is based on vocal music songs singing. And therefore the singing depends on languages naturally. Song has to do with language and not
reuse. Originally it was also asked for north or south anyway. But then you see later on Hindi was used. Which is the language and insult the language who was different and timing. So that also created a big you know change difference for the raga has a set form and then you have flexibility in between is that is that right. How does that work I know you can improvise but you also have to improvise within a framework. First I would let you explain the raag of which is the most difficult thing to just say sorry. You see first we have to realize that there are 72 principles full octave scales on this 72 scares. There are approximately I mean taking into consideration all possible permutations and combinations. About
16000 some odd some hundred druggists. But actually we are not really you know we mostly was maybe 250 200 rockers and now the rest are more or less in books you know. And when we start to perform I this are instrumentalists single we choose the dog over to robberies and then retreated. Anyway every light we can expose the rug without any words just plain you know singing without any lyric that is using syllables Maybe same day if you can on the instrument without any drama so anything very soft presence that is known as our lap and that is very profound very deep very spiritual and then we can also sing the same raga with words. Of course it has to be I that in the top of the form of 30 orders you know from the 15th
century or the Caliph on which became more popular from the hour almost 19th century. Just so does words make a song for the sing God and in them that's where the tabla drums shine. And same day with the instruments we call it that. That's where the drums join and beat she was didn't exactly.
It sounds complicated to me and so I wondered how much this music is for the educated classes and how much it can be enjoyed by everybody does one have to know a great deal about Indian music in order to fully appreciate it. Well first I like to say to achieve and that freedom of improvisation we have to undergo really many many many years of study. Same like the rest of classical music. You know with the added difficulty that our Susan order tradition so we don't write down on music so we have to memorize everything. It's almost like feeding a computer with all the datas and that's the job of the guru the master of the teacher the preceptor and under him we learn all these different techniques how to in a faster it starts with fixed things. And then little by little by little under his direction we started improvising. First maybe two person five person 10 person. Then it depends upon the
creativity of the student also. Some can improvise more some kind less you know and that's why it's a very intricate system but after this long training and discipling the idea is to become as free as possible. And as to the second question that you us now I would say just same. There was almost as invest you know the classical music. Has got so limited listeners you know which is played in large halls. But you know it is not in the same manner as a rock superstar or more popular singer or musician. Therefore it is restricted to a particular sophisticated who you know used to understand and appreciate. I have had read somewhere where you felt the sitar playing was almost a. There was an element of spiritual mysticism about it. Is this a religious do you
find that this is somewhat of a religious experience for you. Our music classical music started in the same manner as the Western classical and religious societies. So it was born where it is and I don't know in which period actually from going to go to and chancy Dept of Performing Arts he has written down music composers started writing symphonies you know. So not as in our case somehow because of the order tradition which I mention just now. That spirit that started everything never died you know that religious feeling of the spiritual feeling it still is there because along with the technique the whole music it has been handed down and it has passed through person to person and therefore in even today you know music has got that effect. But which doesn't mean that all of far is music is
really just you know what I mean. For instance when I played the solo which is known as the I live without their drums. Well that is the part of Fox News if it is really very very deep and very spiritual. But when I played it and you know fast things slow things little man take it can be very sensuous very happy but exciting. It McKinley therefore you know it has a different sort of emotional appeal in different parts.
Are there any other instruments that are used with this it other than well it is really the most popular string instrument than the other. The proper instruments are the sad old and also the board instrument called sovereignty. Then among the state wind instrument is the floor your bamboo flute with just horse no keys and the lead instrument with something like an oboe and I the most vocal of instruments. I remember seeing you many years ago at MIT where you gave a concert along with the tabla player and was fascinated at how well of course and how intricately both of you work together and I wondered how long it took for you to form such a musical partnership. Because of this intricacy. Well it helps if you know a person for a long
time like you know for instance this great trick that I have with me now since last 15 16 years without a lot of color who's going to focus on it just love it. Because of you know being together we have really started to have wonderful understanding you know. Which may not happen all the time to someone else but at the same time the training. You know music is such that we have this anticipation. Which comes from experience and momentous charts. He realizes rich Tyla going to play and after hearing it a little he can't be he deaf.
How long did you study this. When did you start. I started at the age of nine. Playing says I but I was really playing. I mean not seriously because I happened to be at that time with my brother stroke and I came to Europe from India I was studying in Paris and being in the group of dancers and musicians I was you know naturally inclined to try out everything so I was playing I mean quite well just by hearing without any proper training but actually I was more of a dancer. We started off as a dance and that's right. And then my brother who was a pioneer in bringing in music and dance in early 30s but it was only at the age of 15 when. It was the other large income who became a coup later on. He joined my brother stroke for one year only he came to Europe to do it all over with us and that's for the first time I ever heard such a giant of a musician and I never had any
idea that there could be such greatness in this field. And he also took a great liking to me because I was very talented. He taught but he was very angry with me all the time because he said you know you're not serious in a thing or dancing or painting or doing this you're doing that and you know he's going to get renaissance man. He had such a vile temper but very temperamental and I was so frightened of him. But anyway he did teach me in that one year period whatever was possible. All the basic things and you know a lot of songs a lot of guys and he really completely gave me the first like stepping in a first step to the music and then he left and he said if you can ever leave all this glitter and glamour of his touring and all this life then only you can learn and then come to me and then I'll teach you. So it took me another two years really to because at that time I was becoming very very famous you
know I was having raving people today even people like John Martin wrote wonderful lines on my solo dances. So it took me about two years and then I decided that I'd take music as the main thing and if I left my brother struck vent to him in a more literal religion sent not sent or bought a free India called my head and I stood there for seven and half years. Practice started working very hard. Started it about seven eight hours 10 credit hours and 14 hours and at some point 16 hours a day.
The sitar music as I understand it is becoming or people have credited sitar music as being very popular in the West now because of old British and American rock groups but you have been around on concert tours for quite some time before the the George Harrison of the Beatles worked with you in the sitar isn't that right. Well I started touring from 1955 to Boston even in 56 and Chris Gardner showed him and they're playing down hard in New York and by 1961 62 64. By that period I was playing Carnegie Hall our Royal Festival Hall in London. And you know having backed houses but still it was this sophisticated origins and really did genuinely interested people in Indian music all day. People who loved jazz and they were at my you know and I built from just your body and soul of all over Europe in America and with George Harrison's becoming
my student in 19 and of 1966 that created a sort of explosion you know for Indian music and sitar and made me a superstar especially to the young people. You like being a superstar. No I was not very happy to do to because he was like What is that expression walking on a double agent. Because you see on the one side they love to me and is sort of there was such a fantastic feeling of all that but you know I was very unhappy because I knew that this is not the real thing in the sense that they mixed it up with rock music and with drugs and the whole you know what was going on the flower children and the whole new movement the hippie movement. So I became like a cult you know and. It was very difficult. It has been a very great strain for me for those few years because at the same time in spite of their coming to me and
performing in large festivals when I found them in a smoking and misbehaving I had to stop playing at tell them about Indian music to tell them how serious it is it is a really religious spiritual thing you have to listen with the same discipline and feeling like you hear Bach or Mozart. So it went on and on for all these years you know which got off a large amount of clout from him because I didn't like to be told you know to stop doing their own things. But nevertheless I think it was good because I stuck to my principles and I think by now that fad is finished. That whole Indian scene of you know Phanatic. Love flooding and all that is now not there but those who have remained. I find them very very understanding serious and actually happy now. Do you have any children who are interested in playing the sitar the way you do.
I have a son who plays his fab really well but he didn't want to take it as a profession he takes it you can understand that with a father like that. He's in Los Angeles and I just became a grandfather. If humans going to graduation think this is your first grandchild is it. Yes my first grandson. You have a school on the West Coast. I had it around for almost three years but then it was part of the whole scene and it was at that time I thought they were genuinely interested. But then I found out you know the heart that they would just take this to learn a few chords and be on their own like they do with guitar and when they saw the hard amount of work and what I demanded from them one by one. That was it I had so few of them were there so I thought just no user owning a school and I still have fewer students who are serious and good in the East Coast as well as the West Coast but you know what this school but in the meantime we can enjoy your performances very much and thank you so
much Ravi Shankar. Thank you for being with us tonight. We've been listening to India's famous sitar as Ravi Shankar will be performing at 8 o'clock this evening at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge Mass. But then Technica. This is Eleanor stuff. And I'm Frank Fitzmaurice. We welcome your comments and suggestions on the series Our address is Penn Technica. WGBH radio Boston Mass. Oh twenty one thirty four. Then technic on it's brought to you seven nights a week. In part by a grant from the courier corporation of Lowell Massachusetts.
Ideas: Ravi Shankar
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Chicago: “Pantechnicon; Ideas: Ravi Shankar,” 1976-01-08, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 28, 2021,
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