|George Harrison and Ravi Shankar at the Concert for Bangladesh press conference.|
Google honored Ravi Shankar with a doodle the other day.
Ravi Shankar is a great example of someone bringing a special point of view to pierce the bubble of "normalcy" in which a vast number of people live, and to agitate for tectonic change.
I grew up in an all-white New Jersey suburb, very sheltered from so much that was going on in the rest of the world. I have a crystal clear memory of the way in which Ravi Shankar started with a small but significant intrusion into my world, via his influence on George Harrison and the rest of the Beatles, particularly in songs like "Within You Without You" on the Sgt. Pepper album.
|Ravi Shankar, My Music, My Life|
When I did manage to put together a band with some friends, we were absorbed with the Concert for Bangladesh. Certainly there were benefit concerts before that, but that one is the first that I could really remember that was used as a call to action to respond to the suffering of people in a part of the world that people had never heard of.
It's quite moving to watch the film of the concert after all these years, and to see the press conference at the beginning where they ask George Harrison, "Why are you doing this?" He says, "Because my friend came to me and asked for help."
In 1979, when I was in Taiwan, many of my classmates and I had the opportunity to see Ravi Shankar in concert at the national concert hall in Taipei. I remember Ravi exhorting us to loosen up, to not be so stiff; he encouraged us to move with the music . . . .
I have a clear memory of being in Tower Records in the '90s, and pawing through rack after rack of "world music" CDs. It was funny to think about how a few pioneers cracked that open.
In the early '00s I saw two films that expanded my understanding of how steadily Ravi Shankar had worked to build his audience and his reach. One was the 1971 film Raga. The other was The World According to John Coltrane. (More at: John Coltrane and the integration of Indian concepts in jazz improvisation.)
|Ravi Shankar playing with daughter Anoushka|
In April, 2007, Ravi Shankar performed a sold-out concert in Chicago's Symphony Center with his daughter, Anoushka. I remember Ravi telling us that he was using a specially-designed sitar, a bit smaller than usual, that was easier for him to manage. I remember thinking how historic this was -- how there would a be a time in the very near future when people would not be able to see Ravi Shankar perform any more. I watched him beam as he watched Anoushka perform, and I thought, "She is a prodigy. How proud, how content he looks." And then Anoushka finished, and he played, and -- miraculously -- he took it to a whole other level.
(Of course, you don't need to be Ravi Shankar to feel proud and content . . . . )
|Changing of the guard: Tip Scarry takes up my old Fender Stratocaster|
I see now that one way in which I am different from many people around me is having a love of music and language and imagery and food and much more that carries me beyond what I already know and am comfortable with.
For this I am grateful.
You can see a great set of Ravi Shankar clips on Youtube.
The band was called the Evil Sun and it was the hottest thing to hit Chatham in the '70s . . . .
(See IT'S SHOW TIME! 2015 Sounds Like "Nuclear Disarmament"! )
I often refer to how important the films of Iran have been in helping me open my mind to the possibilities of a peaceful relationship with that country. I have been fortunate to be able to go see some of the best films from Iran every year at the wonderful Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. The will be another Festival of Films From Iran showing there in February, 2014.
(See A Force for Peace: Getting to Know Iran Through Film)
Years later, during the time I was busily traveling to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and many other places, I had occasion one day to flip open my (real) passport, and all the extension pages, filled with visa stamps, cascaded out. The memory of Expo 67 and my "globetrotting" came rushing back to me . . .
(See O Canada! (We'll always have "Expo" . . . . ))
Make no mistake: Sandy was a high-powered lawyer with a high-powered lobbying firm. In that setting, Sandy was a big mahoff. But what made him really big was his ability to help the rest of us have the confidence to raise our voices.
(See REMEMBERING SANDY: Samuel Berger, 1945-2015 )
Could I point to some analogous concepts and practices that I felt characterized the Chinese approach to being in the world? I rolled the idea around in my mind for a while, and then landed on the word "cultivation."
(See "Puja" in India; "Cultivation" in China )
It suddenly occurs to me that everyone in the US should be studying the behavior of England toward India, and asking ourselves, "What might this tell people in the US about coming to our senses?"
(See PROBLEM: How does an entire country exorcise a national delusion?)