In the years leading up to sitar maestro Pt Ravi Shankar’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2013, which he won posthumously, two more golden gramophones made their way into his California music room. While the first one came as the Album of the Year trophy for Concert For Bangladesh in 1972, the other followed in 2001 for his famous Carnegie Hall performance. So a few years later, when he forgot one of those hallowed gramophones “somewhere” and couldn’t remember, his wife Sukanya Shankar was concerned. She called the Recording Academy to get a copy made. She was promptly asked by the voice at the other end, “Which one?” When Sukanya asked Shankar, the musician had no answer. “He just didn’t remember. That’s the kind of musician he was,” his daughter Anoushka had said in her speech while accepting the 2013 Grammy.
The Recording Academy may have created a copy without much ado and returned it to the family, but the trophies are now back with them. This time at the fourth floor of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, where a tribute is being paid to Shankar through an exhibition titled “Ravi Shankar: A Life in Music”. The exhibition is also displaying a collection of sitars, artifacts and rare photographs from the Shankar family. The exhibition at the Grammy Museum is a first of its kind for any Indian musician in the history of the museum. “We are a museum that celebrates all musical genres and artistic influences, so it was a pleasure to be able to devote our first world music exhibit to the legendary Ravi Shankar. The exhibit will provide visitors with a glimpse into the music icon’s early life, the roots of his musicality and his vast impact on Western music,” said Nwaka Onwusa, Associate Curator of the Grammy Museum, about the exhibition which opened on April 29, also Shankar’s 95th birth anniversary.
Onwusa worked closely with Sukanya Shankar, who provided all the material for the exhibition. The only challenge she faced was to choose from the colossal range of material she received. The Museum picked Shankar’s earliest sitar, letters from his father, his handwritten bandishe in Bengali, performance attire including outfits worn at Woodstock in 1969 and the Concert for Bangladesh, the performance box from the musician’s final concert in 2012, rare photographs from the Shankar family collection and handwritten letters and music ideas, for display. “Sukanya exudes strength and was deeply moved by the thought of sharing Ravi Shankar’s life.The challenge was highlighting his music for not only his fans, but educating visitors who didn’t know Ravi Shankar,” said Onwusa, about the year-long exhibition.