Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar dead at 92

Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:50 AM
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SAN JOSE, Calif., Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Sitar genius Ravi Shankar, who mesmerized music lovers for decades, died at age 92 in California, days after heart surgery, his website said.

NPR News quoted a tweet from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official Twitter account as saying: "Prime Minister condoles the passing away of Pandit Ravishankar -- A national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage."

Indian NDTV channel said Shankar died in a San Diego hospital Tuesday afternoon and that the Indian Embassy in the United States confirmed his death with Ambassador Nirupama Rao tweeting: "Pandit Ravi Shankar. Mourn passing of a musical genius and gentle soul. Attended his last concert Nov in Calif. He played with such passion."

NBC News quoted Shankar's website, which reported his death, as saying: "Shankar had suffered from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last Thursday. Though the surgery was successful, recovery proved too difficult for the 92-year-old musician."

His family issued a statement expressing thanks for people's "prayers and good wishes through this difficult time."

"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. "His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music."

The virtuoso had popularized the ancient Indian musical instrument around the world and had worked with the Beatles and Yehudi Menuhin.

NBC said Shankar's last performance was Nov. 4 in Long Beach, Calif., and had been described as a celebration of his 10th decade of making music.

Shankar, winner of the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), India's highest civilian award, was the most well-known contemporary Indian musician, the Times of India newspaper said. The report said the maestro had been under treatment for the past week and had been hospitalized after complaining of breathing difficulties.

He had served as India's unofficial ambassador of music ever since his first tour of the United States and Europe in the 1950s, the report said. He had also won three Grammy Awards.

The Hindu newspaper said Shankar was active as a professional musician till the end.

NDTV said he would be competing posthumously for another Grammy in 2103.

He is survived by his wife and daughters Anoushka and Norah Jones, also a musician, and three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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