Remembering Ravi Shankar

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The legendary Indian sitar player, Ravi Shankar, died this week at the age of 92. His music touched a wide range of people - from rock musicians to international ambassadors. Host Michel Martin pays tribute to Shankar's musical legacy.


And finally today, we want to take a moment to remember a legend in Indian classical music. Ravi Shankar died this week at the age of 92. He played the sitar, a long six-stringed wood instrument. He used it to communicate Indian music and culture to an American audience, and in fact audiences around the world. Shankar is known both for his own musicianship and his collaborations with Western greats like the Beatles and John Coltrane. Here's a collaboration with American violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The album is called "West Meets East."


MARTIN: Shankar picked up the sitar when he was 18 and played for more than seven decades. His last concert was just a few months ago at a California event celebrating his life and career. In the audience was India's ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao.

NIRUPAMA RAO: It was the most moving experience, just being there at that concert and quite poignant in many ways because, you know, he was 92, as you know, and we all sensed that he was in failing health. And then once he started playing, I mean it was electrifying. He hadn't lost his touch at all and you could just sense his genius and his creativity that was flowing, despite the fact that he was in such delicate health.

MARTIN: Ravi Shankar was also a cultural ambassador. He played on the opening day of Woodstock in 1969, at a time when most Americans didn't know anything about India. He didn't take this role lightly. Here's Shankar in a 1971 documentary "Raga," talking about the challenge of whether he could actually fully share his culture.


RAVI SHANKA: To be received like this in a foreign land, my God, it is overwhelming. But I wonder how much they can understand. There's so much in our music that goes back thousands of years, so many things that are within me whenever I play, whatever I do.

MARTIN: Thankfully, through his music, Shankar did synthesize all that was in him. Once again, Ambassador Nirupama Rao.

RAO: He was able to really translate in many ways, in the true sense of the word, the soul of Indian art and tradition, something that has lived through centuries in an unbroken fashion. And I think that is really the most precious legacy that he leaves behind.


MARTIN: Ravi Shankar died this week at the age of 92.

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