Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ravi Shankar and the Freshman

News of the death of Ravi Shankar brought to mind a time when, as a CalArts student, I saw him perform live on campus.  It was 1981 and I was a freshman, straight out of South Jersey; meaning, I knew NOTHING.   I ran into my friend from the music school, Dave Coste.

"What's up, Dave?"

"I'm going over to Roy O. Disney (a small music theater at the school).  Ravi Shankar's playing."

"Who's Robby Shank-car?"

"Ravi Shankar.  He's an Indian musician.  Taught George Harrison how to play sitar."

I knew nothing about Indian music.  But I LOVED The Beatles.  I tagged along.

Ravi Shankar, accompanied by a percussionist, performed for about two dozen music students.  A student sporting 'the serious stoner' look, sat cross legged, swaying his torso forward and back in a seemingly spastic fashion.

"What's up with that guy?" I asked Dave.

"He's keeping time.  Indian music has a complex tempo, not like the western, four bar...."  Dave explained it further, but lost me somewhere and I just nodded my head.

It was cool to see the guy who taught George play sitar.  The music sounded so much like that used in Beatles' music that I expected him to break into Norwegian Wood or Within You, Without You.  That didn't happen.   But I broadened my world a little bit that day, and saw a legend perform in the process.

Thanks, Dave!

And thanks, Robby!


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