Ravi Shankar Honored at Memorial in Calif.

World-famous musician Ravi Shankar was remembered at a public memorial service

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012  |  Updated 3:15 PM EDT
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Ravi Shankar in Escondido

The Ravi Shankar Foundation

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World-famous musician Ravi Shankar was remembered Thursday at a public memorial service in southern California.

Services began at 10:30 a.m. at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, where Shankar was a longtime resident, and included tributes and prayers.

Shankar was a master of the Indian sitar who collaborated with and influenced George Harrison, John Coltrane and other Western music icons. He lived in North County for two decades and died last week in San Diego at the age of 92.

Shankar was the father of singer Norah Jones and Grammy-nominated sitarist Anoushka Shankar, with whom he was competing for a Grammy this year. After Ravi's death, the Grammy organization announced that they would honor him with a lifetime achievment award.

Guests greeted at the gates to the center were being welcomed on the clear, crisp morning with rose water and rose petals.

A who's who of musical history attended the services, with many of the bigger names arriving just prior to them through a separate entrance.

Gary Wright of "Dream Weaver" fame — who attended the services with his wife Rose — said Shankar’s music had influenced his career, adding that he had visited Shankar in India in the mid-'70s with Beatle George Harrison. After that, Wright said, he used Indian musicians on his recordings. He said the exposure to Shankar made him more of a holistic artist.

Also spotted attending the services were Harrison's widow Olivia and jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

Services began with a prayer offering by Brother Sevananda. There was a prayer offering by Dr. Nandakumar of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London, and songs of Shankar's were performed by the students of students of Dr. C.M. Venkatachalam of San Diego.

Labeled "the godfather of world music" by Harrison, Shankar helped millions of Westerners — classical, jazz and rock lovers — discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music.

From Harrison to Coltrane, from Yehudi Menuhin to Andre Previn, Shankar bridged, sometimes unsteadily, the musical gap between East and West, between what Shankar noted as the classical East's emphasis on melody and rhythm and the classical West's foundation of "harmony, counterpoint, chords, modulation and other basics."

"Indian music was the original 'world music' — appealing to a generation of educated, middle-class Western listeners," said producer Joe Boyd, who has worked with everyone from Pink Floyd to Nazakat & Salamat Ali. "Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan were the first musicians to reach that audience in a profound way that transcended cultural boundaries."

After Shankar died, a statement on his website stated that he died near his Southern California home with his wife and a daughter by his side. The musician's foundation issued a statement saying that he had suffered upper respiratory and heart problems and had undergone heart-valve replacement surgery last week.

"My Dad's music touched millions of people," Norah Jones said in a statement. "He will be greatly missed by me and music lovers everywhere."

Through Shankar and his bond with Harrison, countless rock acts absorbed Eastern sounds, including the Beatles, the Byrds, Aerosmith and R.E.M. Shankar also became a conscience for all popular musicians when he helped pioneer the rock benefit show with the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh, where featured acts included Harrison, Ringo Starr and Bob Dylan. Shankar's last musical performance was with Anoushka Shankar Wright, on Nov. 4, in Long Beach, Calif.

"It's one of the biggest losses for the music world," said Kartic Seshadri, a Shankar protege, sitar virtuoso and music professor at the University of California, San Diego. "There's nothing more to be said."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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