Editor's note: This interview with Ravi Shankar was conducted in March 2012, prior to a planned concert at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach. Shankar ultimately had to reschedule the concert.
Ravi Shankar is a music phenom known for bringing Indian music to the West.
On Sunday, he will be bringing his music to Long Beach's Terrace Theater for a concert benefiting The Ravi Shankar Foundation.
The foundation was established in 1997 to serve as a resource center for classical Indian music and to archive the works of Shankar, along with other Indian musicians. The organization opened a center in Delhi, India, and is raising funds to open a center in California to continue its mission of educating the world about Indian music.
"The foundation is more to help Indian music be popularized as much as possible in this country," Shankar said by phone on a recent evening, battling jet lag after his trip from India to the United States.
The sitar player, who will turn 92 on April 7, has been performing since childhood. While he doesn't perform as many concerts as he used to, he says he still plays 10 to 15 concerts a year with no plans to stop anytime soon.
For the Long Beach performance, his sister-in-law Lakshmi Shankar will be the opening act. He then will take the stage along with a few other musicians playing sitar, drums and the flute.
"I'm going to perform the classical music of India," Shankar said. "Sitar is one of the most popular instruments of northern India and I will be playing the classical music along with drums and a flute player and students of sitar with me. So it will be Indian classical music with all its rhythmic variations and melody variations."
His sister-in-law is not the only famous lady in Shankar's family. His eldest daughter is Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Norah Jones, and his younger daughter, Anoushka Shankar, is a Grammy-nominated sitar player.
Ravi Shankar calls Anoushka one of his best students, since she learned how to play the sitar from him as a child. Another student he took under his wing was the Beatles' lead guitarist, George Harrison, whom he began working with in 1965.
"George was a wonderful student," Shankar said. "I loved him very much."
He also noted that it was his relationship with Harrison that helped popularize Indian music in the West, especially his own.
Since then, he says, the genre has continued to gain followers in America and all over the world.
"I started it way back in 1955 and since then other musicians have been coming from India, and together we have a tremendous amount of listeners all over North and South America, all over Europe and all over the world," Shankar said.
About two weeks ago, Ravi Shankar Sharma, another music composer from India, passed away. Some bloggers and Twitter users confused the two musicians and were reporting the sitar player was the one who passed away.
But, Shankar says he was unfazed by the rumors.
"It wasn't me, otherwise I wouldn't be talking to you," Shankar said. "I'm 92 now and hopefully will be around for a long time. And I'm still performing. The Lord has been kind to me, I'm lucky."
Stephanie Cary 310-540-5511, Ext. 6630 firstname.lastname@example.org
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