Ravi Shankar still making magic sitar music at 91

Sep 23, 2011, 12:38 p.m.
Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar performs in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata February 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw

Q: Still, you gained fame in the West from those events

A: "There was one issue that always bothered me. They mixed my music with drugs and all that type of free love and everything. That's what I objected to. I wanted to bring them consciousness of our music to relate to like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart -- you don't go to hear a concert being on grass or misbehaving like that."

Q: Did you ever express that to an audience?

A: "I said, 'I don't want to be treated -- or my music -- to be treated like that.' So I, many a times, would walk out of my concerts until they stopped smoking and behaved properly. I didn't want to reach them on drugs, but I did want to play them our music, our Indian classical music which connected more with -- not religion but a more spiritual energy."

Q: Your introduction to the rock world came through George Harrison. What brought the two of you together for the 1971 benefit concert for Bangladesh?

A: "I was in Los Angeles at that time and I was thinking of giving a concert or two, raising as much as I could, and help them. George came to my house and said, 'Let's do it in a bigger way and raise as much as we can.' He phoned Bob Dylan and all his friends, and the show happened. One show sold out immediately, so they had another show in the afternoon. The crisis became known around the world within 24 hours."

Q: Harrison studied sitar under you before composing "Norwegian Wood" and "Within You Without You," both of which used the instrument. Was George a good student?

A: "He was a wonderful student, he was like my family, my friend and we had a wonderful time. He flew into Mumbai in 1974 and 1975 where I had a festival for 45 minutes with my musicians, and after intermission he had his group and he helped promote the concert all over the United States. He was a wonderful friend."

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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