The legendary Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, a major influence on Western musicians including The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, has died at the age of 92, Indian television said.
Shankar, who was the father of the American singer-songwriter Norah Jones, died in a hospital in San Diego where he had travelled to undergo surgery, the CNN-IBN network reported on Wednesday.
The Indian prime minister’s office called him a “national treasure”.
Shankar, a three-time Grammy winner with legendary appearances at the 1967 Monterey Festival and Woodstock, had been in fragile health for several years and last Thursday underwent surgery, his family said in a statement.
“Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives,” the family said. “He will live forever in our hearts and in his music.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Kolkata, Mamata Shankar, actress and niece of Ravi Shankar, said her uncle still had many plans at his old age.
“He was 92-years-old but at heart he was like a child. One of his close associates had come back from Los Angeles and he was telling us he was planning so many things now. They were all going to the USA and he was looking forward to collaborate. He was always so active, very child-like, and very energetic. In the end, his health didn’t permit but he was still full of enthusiasm.”
In a statement issued to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Jones said of her father, with whom she had a distant relationship, “my dad’s music touched millions of people. He will be greatly missed by me and music lovers everywhere”.
‘Godfather of world music’
Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers in the West discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music over an eight-decade career.
He was a hippie musical icon of the 1960s. He played Woodstock and hobnobbed with The Beatles.
Beatle George Harrison labelled him “the godfather of world music”.
Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from New Delhi said: “Many believe Ravi Shankar promoted India and and Indian music to the world, his influence in western music was inspirational, he went on to win Grammy’s, the nomination for an Oscar for Gandhi in 1982 and various accolades.”
“His legacy and influence on the country is evident with the wall to wall coverage in Indian media reporting his death” added Rahman.
He also pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh. To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.
Shankar collaborated with Harrison, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane as he worked to bridge the musical gap between the West and East.