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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