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Legendary Shankar lauded at memorial Tributes pour

ENCINITAS, California, Dec 21, (Agencies): Former Beatle George Harrison’s widow Olivia joined hundreds of fans and family of Ravi Shankar on Thursday at an open-air memorial to the Indian sitar legend near his California home. Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the late musician who died last week near San Diego, and her half-sister Grammy-winning singer Norah Jones also paid their last respects at the service in a palm tree-lined meditation center. Tributes were read out from fellow musicians and artists who had been inspired by Shankar, labeled “The Godfather of World Music” by the Beatles and compared to Mozart by violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin. Harrison, whose late husband learned sitar from Shankar and collaborated with him notably on the ground-breaking Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, said the former Beatle had learned so much from their friendship.

“They were like father and son as well as brothers... they made each other laugh as if they shared a secret. And I’m sure they did,” said the 64-year-old, whose husband died of cancer in 2001. Shankar “laid the stepping stones from West to East, that led George to new concepts, alternative philosophies and completely transformed his musical sensibilities,” she said. “They exchanged ideas and melodies until their minds and hearts, East and West, were entwined, like a double helix,” she added in Encinitas, where Shankar had a home. Shankar’s 31-year-old daughter Anoushka — also a sitar player, and just nominated for a Grammy — told the audience that her father would have approved of the memorial’s venue, the Self-Realization Fellowship spiritual center.

Shankar died last Tuesday at the age of 92, after failing to recover from surgery at a hospital in La Jolla, near San Diego. His family was at his bedside. Private memorial services were announced both in the United States and India, where Shankar also had a home. Jazz-soul singer Jones, Shankar’s daughter from an affair with a US concert producer, was dressed in black and kept a low profile at Thursday’s event in Encinitas, up the coast from San Diego. His widow Sukanya was also at the California memorial, which started with prayers chanted by M.N. Nandakumara of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan institute for Indian art and culture in London. Nandakumara said that Shankar’s music “brought people of various countries, communities together to his soul-stirring music, which was matchless.

As well as Indian family and friends, Thursday’s event — at which speakers were flanked on stage by photos of Shankar at various stages of his life — was attended by locals and other fans and followers. “He’s local, he’s part of the community here,” said Eddy Jimenez, a musician and trumpet player from Encinitas, comparing Shankar’s influence and music to that of Harrison’s fellow Beatle John Lennon. Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock also attended the service along with “Anna Karenina” director Joe Wright, the husband of Shankar’s daughter Anoushka. Shankar, who had lived in Encinitas for the past 20 years, had suffered from upper respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last week at a hospital in San Diego. The surgery was successful but he was unable to recover. Shankar’s final concert was on Nov 4 in Long Beach, California, with his Grammy-winning sitarist daughter Anoushka, who spoke giving thanks to those who came. Jones, the third Grammy-winner in the family, did not speak at the service.

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