Ravi Shankar KBE (born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury), 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012), whose name is often preceded by the title Pandit (Master) and ‘Sitar maestro’, was an Indian musician and a composer of Hindustani classical music. He was the best-known proponent of the sitar in the second half of the 20th century and influenced many other musicians throughout the world. Shankar was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999.
Shankar was born to a Bengali Brahmin family in India and spent his youth as a dancer touring India and Europe with his brother, Uday’s, dance group. In 1938 he gave up dancing to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan. After finishing his studies in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, creating the music for the Apu Triology by Satyajit Ray He was also music director of All India Radio, New Delhi, from 1949 to 1956.
In 1956, Shankar began to tour Europe and the Americas playing Indian classical music and increased its popularity there in the 1960s through teaching, performance, and his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison, the Beatles’ guitarist. His influence on George helped to popularize the use of Indian instruments in pop music in the latter half of the 1960s. Shankar engaged Western music by writing compositions for sitar and orchestra and toured the world in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1986 to 1992, he served as a nominated member of Rajya Sabha, the upper chamber of the Parliament of India. He continued to perform music until the end of his life.