Thursday, 20th Dec: Ravi Shankar (7/4/1920-12/11/2012) memorial draws large crowd
Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on December 20, 2012
Herbie Hancock, Zubin Mehta, Anoushka Shankar & Norah Jones among those on hand to honor the Indian music legend
As the family departed the ceremony Thursday, half-sisters Norah Jones, left, Anoushka Shankar and Anoushka’s mother Sukanya Shankar, Ravi Shankar’s widow, rode away together in a cart to a private gathering. The Ravi Shankar Memorial service Thursday at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas was an intimate service with most of his family in attendance, several close friends in the music world and hundreds of fans who filled the seats on a cold but clear morning. — Peggy Peattie
Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar moved to Encinitas in 1992 because he found the seaside community an ideally tranquil place to focus on making the transcendent music long synonymous with his name.
On Thursday, nine days after his death in a La Jolla hospital at age 92, Encinitas provided a fitting setting for the multicultural icon’s open-air memorial service.
The 90-minute event at the Self Realization Fellowship, where Shankar enjoyed taking walks, drew more than 1,000 people. They included jazz great Herbie Hancock, legendary classical music conductor Zubin Mehta, Shankar’s two daughters – sitar star Anoushka Shankar, 31, and acclaimed singer-songwriter Norah Jones, 33 – and his tirelessly devoted wife, Sukanya.
Under clear blue skies and a warm winter sun, heartfelt tributes were paid to the man former Beatle George Harrison once famously (and very accurately) hailed as “the godfather of World Music.”
“Raviji was one of the great citizens of the world,” said Harrison’s widow, Olivia, as she addressed the audience. “I cannot think of a more illustrious or elegant person.”
Harrison provided the array of white flowers that decorated the fellowship grounds and the stage, which was decorated with three photos of Shankar — one as a young man, one from last year and one from when he was middle aged. She recalled that he and her late husband had a unique bond.
“They were like father and son, as well as brothers,” she said. “They made each other laugh, as if the shared a secret — and I’m sure they did! Their common bond was music.”
Mehta, the former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, was near tears as he recalled his longtime friendship and musical collaborations with Shankar, whose friends affectionately called Raviji.
“As a musician I always felt like a little crumb in his presence,” Mehta said of Shankar, whom he knew for nearly 50 years. “Because every night, whichever stage he was performing on, he was composing simultaneously (as he played).”
Listening to Shankar perform a raga — from its serene beginning to its emotionally charged conclusion, with a dramatic build-up of intensity in between — was, Mehta recalled, like hearing “the cosmos open up.”
By any standards, Shankar was a bold and innovative pioneer who helped introduce the East to the West. A three-time Grammy Award winner and a 1982 Academy Award nominee for Best Score, he did more than any other artist to introduce the culture of India to the world through his borders-leaping music and intensely spiritual playing.
“His legacy was that he was a champion of an entire culture –and that only happens once in a lifetime,” San Diego rock musician Hargo, 27, said.
One longtime Shankar fan, S. Ti Muntarbhorn, flew from Vancouver to Los Angeles, then drove to Encinitas, to attend Thursday’s memorial.
“I brought Ravi’s CD box set with me and played it in the car,” she said. “His music guided me down here and it will guide me back to the airport. He is a Teacher with a capital ‘T’ and what he represents to the world is the deep resonance where music and spirituality are united. “
After the service concluded, jazz keyboard giant Hancock recalled Shankar as a major inspiration.
“He was such an amazing human being. I’m so grateful for what he’s given to the world,” Hancock said. “On a personal level, I got to meet him when I was in India to do a master class for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. He graced us with his presence and I expected him to sit in the audience. But he came to the stage and fully participated, and gave us a lesson with such grace and skill.
“When I was ready to leave India, his sitar maker contacted me and said Ravi wanted to give me a (custom-made) sitar. I was like: ‘Wow! Ravi Shankar is giving me a sitar!’ I have it in my home in Los Angeles.”
Norah Jones, who sat in the front row, did not address the audience, although she did join other family members on stage at the conclusion of the memorial service. Her half-sister Anoushka, a 1999 San Dieguito Academy graduate, spoke about their legendary dad with warmth and grace.
“My father loved spending time here so much and it feels so right for us to celebrate his journey in this beautiful place,” Anoushka said, as she gazed out on the grounds of the Self Realization Fellowship.
Speaking for several minutes, Anoushka thanked a number of dignitaries and friends, including the doctors in San Diego who, for years, took care of her father with so much “love and tenderness” that she grew to consider them family.
“Lastly,” Anoushka said, “thanks to all of you for being here to celebrate the life” of Ravi Shankar.
By coincidence, one week before his death, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar each earned Grammy Award nominations in the Best World Music Album category for their respective latest albums. A day after his death, the elder Shankar was named as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
Anoushka’s husband, Academy Award-nominated film director Joe Wright, paid homage to his father-in-law with a combination of reverence and sly humor.
Recounting his first overnight stay at the Shankar’s home in Encinitas, prior to his marriage to Anoushka, Wright described being alone with Ravi Shankar at the breakfast table.
“After a long silence, he asked me: ‘Do you wash everyday?’ I said: ‘Yes, yes sir, I do, most days’,” Wright recalled. “He said: ‘Good, good, good.’ Then, another silence. And then he turned to me and asked, with a slight look of concern: ‘All over, or just your hands and face?’ (I said:) ‘Generally, all over, sir’.”
Growing more serious, Wright recalled a time when he had to leave the Shankar’s Encinitas home for London to deal with a “really troubling” personal situation.
“(Ravi) told me a story about a man he really loved, who he’d put on a pedestal,” Wright said. “And then something happened and that man fell from the pedestal, and dropped down into a pit.
“Raviji said the point was to try and find the average in people, and to try and love the average in them. And it works.”
Earlier in the service, a tape of Shankar speaking was played for the audience. “Music is the only language I really know,” he said.
Just how dedicated Shankar was to his craft was highlighted during Wright’s tribute to him. The director recalled watching Shankar prepare to be wheeled out from his San Diego hospital room for an operation that, Shankar and his family believed, the music legend was unlikely to survive.
“He was crying and we were crying; (we thought) ‘This was it, this was goodbye’,” Wright recalled “As he got wheeled into the operating room, his fingers were still going. I never, at any moment, saw his fingers not playing not beating a rhythm. Even as he was wheeled in to the operating room, he was still playing music, even facing death.
“Four hours later, he was back in his (hospital) bed, apologizing for getting so sentimental. He was embarrassed.”
Olivia Harrison was the final speaker of the day at the service, which was staged with impeccable taste. Her words matched Anouhska Shankar for grace and eloquence.
“Of course, George felt so sorry for (Anoushka), because she studied (music and the sitar) with her father and could never escape practice, like (George) did,” Harrison said, before findly recalling how Ravi Shankar had beamed with pride when a young Norah Jones played a song for the Harrisons at their Los Angeles home.
“(Ravi) will be with us in (his) morning, afternoon and evening ragas, with his students — who are speard all over the world — and his (spirit and legacy) will resound in the music of Anoushka and Norah. I want Sukanya (Mrs. Shankar) to know she is loved by all of us for who she is and (for) the great service she provided for Raviji. And I hope all of you wil help her in the years to come, because he would want that for her.”
(Source: 12/20/2012 – UT San Diego)
Ravi Shankar’s dauther Anoushka Sh. Wright expressing her thank’s to the audience…