Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar

Hachette. Apr. 2020. 672p. ISBN 9780306874888. $32. MUSIC
Very few musicians merit a biography of 600-plus pages, but such is the case for sitarist, composer, and teacher Ravi Shankar. Craske, who worked closely with Shankar on his 1997 autobiography Raga Mala, covers every aspect of the artist’s life and work, paying close attention to Shankar’s personal and cultural relationship to India, with early chapters detailing his childhood and initial career as a dancer proving particularly evocative. Shankar continually experimented with Western forms—including collaborations with composer Philip Glass, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and George Harrison—but he typically adhered to the framework of Indian classical music, emphasizing its emotional spirituality. Shankar became a new kind of international rock star in the 1960s, complete with a peripatetic lifestyle filled with fleeting romantic relationships and intense self-doubt. He had a son, Subho, at 22 and at the ages of 58 and 61 fathered his daughters Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar, both of whom would find great success as musicians and composers, with Anoushka being perhaps his greatest student on the sitar. He spent his final decades married to Sukanya Rajan, Anoushka’s mother, and never stopped performing until a month before his death at 92.
VERDICT Compelling, informative, and the definitive book on this musical legend.

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