With an instrument perplexing to most Westerners, Ravi Shankar helped connect the world through music. The sitar virtuoso hobnobbed with the Beatles, became a hippie musical icon and spearheaded the first rock benefit concert as he introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over a nearly century-long career.
From George Harrison to John Coltrane, from Yehudi Menuhin to David Crosby, his connections reflected music’s universality, though a gap persisted between Shankar and many Western fans. Sometimes they mistook tuning for tunes, while he stood aghast at displays like Jimi Hendrix’s burning guitar.
Shankar died Tuesday at age 92. A statement on his website said he died in San Diego, near his Southern California home. The musician’s foundation issued a statement saying that he had suffered upper respiratory and heart problems and had undergone heart-valve replacement surgery last week.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also confirmed Shankar’s death and called him a “national treasure.”
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