I read this morning that the great Ravi Shankar passed away at the age of 92 (click here to read full article). On one hand, I was saddened, but on the other hand, I was happy that he lived such a long life and gave so much to the world of music.
When I was a teenager, I watched the Monterey Pop Festival film and was blown away by Shankar’s performance. I had never heard anything like it before. I remember thinking that it sounded like an orchestra emanating from a single instrument. I felt the need to learn more about the sitar, so I asked an Indian woman I worked with about the instrument. She told me she had studied sitar briefly while living in India. I asked her how much a sitar costs. She told me they were around $100 in India and if I wanted one she would have her mom send one over. I of course jumped at the opportunity and soon had my own sitar (with shipping and insurance it came to $350). Shortly afterwards, I found a teacher and took lessons for a while until he moved back to India to join an ashram.
I still have my sitar and enjoy playing it, although work, writing, family, and playing guitar in a glam rock band afford me less time than I would like to spend with the sitar. But, I occasionally tune it up and play a raga or two. In fact, I think I will do so today, in honor of the man who introduced me to world music at a young age and helped me understand how music works as a form of meditation.