Ravi Shankar “godfather of world music” dies aged 92

The musician who influenced The Beatles, and brought the sound of the sitar to the West, is described as an Indian "national treasure"

Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar has died, aged 92, after undergoing surgery last week.


In a statement, Shankar’s wife Sukanya and daughter Anoushka – who were at his side when he passed away – said the procedure could have given him “a new lease of life.”

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery,” they said.

Perhaps best known for his influence on the Beatles – most evident on the track Within You Without You from the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album – Shankar was dubbed “the godfather of world music” by George Harrison.

Early collaborations with stars such as violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane helped Shankar bring the sound of the sitar and the raga (the Indian melodic mode) to Western ears.

Tours of Europe and North America, including a performance at Woodstock, increased his poularity, transforming him into, first, a hippie icon and, later, a more mainstream star. He was still performing publicly into his 90s.

Shankar was also the pioneer of the charity rock benefit, organising the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with George Harrison to raise funds for flood relief in the country.

Following the news of his death, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Shankar as a “national treasure and global ambassador of India’s cultural heritage”.

The musician’s wife and daughter said “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. He will live forever in our hearts and in his music.”


Shankar also leaves behind his estranged daughter US singer-songwriter Nora Jones.