Ravi Shankar Gives George Harrison a Sitar Lesson … and Other Vintage Footage

Ravi Shankar, the Indi­an sitarist (and father of Norah Jones) known for his col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Bea­t­les and oth­er west­ern musi­cians, died Tues­day in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. He was 92 years old. Born in India in 1920, Shankar began play­ing the sitar dur­ing the late 1930s, and, by the 1940s, he start­ed think­ing about how to bring east­ern music to west­ern audi­ences. Tours brought him to the Sovi­et Union, West­ern Europe and the Unit­ed States dur­ing the 50s. But every­thing changed when he crossed paths in 1966 with a rock star devel­op­ing his own inter­est in the sitar.

George Har­ri­son taught him­self enough to play the sitar on “Nor­we­gian Wood,” the east­ern-inflect­ed song writ­ten by Lennon and McCart­ney in 1965. Shankar and Har­ri­son met the next year in Lon­don, mark­ing the begin­ning of an impor­tant musi­cal part­ner­ship. Soon enough, Har­ri­son trav­eled to India — to a remote region in the Himalayas — to study the sitar and read spir­i­tu­al texts with Shankar. Return­ing the favor, Har­ri­son saw to it that Shankar per­formed at the Mon­terey Pop Fes­ti­val in June 1967. Lat­er, the two orga­nized the influ­en­tial Con­cert for Bangladesh, which brought them togeth­er with Bob Dylan, Eric Clap­ton, and Bil­ly Pre­ston.

Above, we have doc­u­men­tary footage fea­tur­ing Shankar and Har­ri­son togeth­er in a sitar les­son. Below, we present oth­er clips from that fer­tile peri­od.

Ravi Shankar’s Appear­ance with Har­ri­son on the Dick Cavett Show (1971)

Shankar at Mon­terey Pop (1967)

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Comments (4)
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  • I real­ly believe there is heal­ing in this music. It goes to the core.

  • Sajith Shetty says:

    Sub­lime music. Thank you for vis­it­ing us.

  • Lou LaRue says:

    This clip is amaz­ing. I am writ­ing a nov­el that’s part­ly set in this peri­od, and one of the char­ac­ters is deeply affect­ed the first time she hears a sitar (while Nor­we­gian Wood first plays on the radio). I’ve been doing a ton of research on George, the Bea­t­les, Ravi Shankar…and this clip–the footage and Ravi Shankar’s voiceover–just incred­i­ble. Two ques­tions, if you have a moment. WHERE do you think this lit­tle les­son took place? I see water in the back­ground. I’m tempt­ed to think California…maybe Esalen (yeah I just watched the Mad Men finale), or L.A. What do you think? For some rea­son, it looks like the U.S. to me, and I can’t fig­ure out why. Maybe it’s a sea­side locale in India!
    And — WHEN? 1966? 1967? Many thanks.

  • wagomon says:

    Looks like the bluff over­look­ing Swamis in Encini­tas , CA
    @ the Self Real­iza­tion Cen­ter

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