Raga Mala

The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar
ISBN 9781566491044 (hardcover)
Published in September 2001
MSRP $35.00
"Shankar, a sitar player known as the godfather of world music for his role in opening Western ears to sounds from the East, gives an honest, in-depth look at his life and work in this prodigious autobiography. Like a fine musical composition, Shankar beautifully narrates his life's milestones--his early years in India, his travels as a performer in Paris during the 1930s, his breakthrough in the West and rise to stardom during the '60s, his turbulent personal life in the '70s and '80s--while periodically returning to his basic theme: his love of music and the sitar. Throughout, Shankar builds on his 1968 book, My Music, My Life, which provided a general introduction to Indian music. He describes his performances in U.S. music festivals (Woodstock, he says, was " a terrifying experience" where "the music was incidental"); he also weaves in tales of people he affected (Gene Kelly, Richard Burton, Peter Sellers, Marlon Brando and, of course, editor Harrison), and those who influenced him--most importantly Ustad Allauddin Khan, the classical musician and pioneer of modern Hindustani instrumental music. Along with the enormous number of photographs that accompany this dense and lengthy work, Shankar presents letters and musical transcriptions to produce a history of Indian music during the 20th century. Although Shankar has been somewhat taken for granted in recent years due to his long-standing popularity, this book convincingly reasserts his historical importance. "
- Publishers Weekly
"Born in India, sitar master Shankar was raised in his brother Uday's dance company, which toured internationally. His life, populated by a rich cast of family and friends, thus reveals a fascinating tension between Western and Eastern cultures. In this book, the man who was India's premier musical ambassador for over 40 years displays both sincere humility and the sort of self-confidence that borders on boastfulness. But, for the most part, his manner is so gentle that the reader cannot help but be charmed. Edited by Harrison--the ex-Beatle who propelled Shankar to a kind of pop star-like fame when he became Shankar's student in 1966--his narrative tends to meander; an "additional narrative" by Oliver Craske provides important background information and context for Shankar's many reminiscences. The emphasis throughout is on Shankar the man; those interested in his ideas about India's musical traditions should seek out his earlier book, My Music, My Life (1968). Recommended for popular and world music collections."
- Library Journal