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On 7 April, Anoushka Shankar posted a heartfelt message on social media to mark the 100th birth anniversary of her late father, sitar virtuoso-composer Pandit Ravi Shankar. “We were meant to have celebrated with a massive gala performance, but since that can’t happen, we’re inviting you to join us at home instead," wrote the six-time Grammy-nominated musician.

Last month, while speaking about her latest album, Love Letters, Shankar had outlined extensive plans to celebrate the occasion—from retrospectives at museums across the world to a series of Ravi Shankar Centennial Concerts featuring family members like Norah Jones, and guest artists such as Philip Glass and Dhani Harrison. In the wake of covid-19, however, these events had to be put on the back-burner. They have been postponed till next spring.

Instead, the family has decided to hold virtual concerts, the first of which was streamed live on 7 April. It saw Shankar delving into her father’s catalogue to create new arrangements of his compositions. She asked some of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s foremost disciples—Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Shubhendra Rao, Barry Phillips and Bickram Ghosh—to send live recordings of the virtuoso’s piece Sandhya Raga, which she then edited and arranged. “I first got to perform it (Sandhya Raga) in my debut concert at 13, and it has been a nourishing staple I have returned to over the years. I like to think it would have made him smile to see us performing it together again, reuniting in music whilst spread out across the planet," posted Shankar.

The recording can be viewed on her YouTube page.

Another performance, which can be viewed on her Instagram account, is a made-at-home rendition of Fathers, which she co-wrote with Nitin Sawhney in honour of their fathers, who died several years ago. In line with the celebrations, the Southbank Centre in London, which was to host one of the centenary concerts on 7 April, has put up a virtual showcase, titled Shankar 100, with exclusive videos and curated playlists. The live concert has been pushed to next year.

The Shankar family has also released a biography, Indian Sun: The Life And Music Of Ravi Shankar, authored by Oliver Craske. It celebrates the legacy of a musician who achieved international fame in the 1960s through collaborations with The Beatles’ George Harrison, and performances at Monterey Pop, Woodstock. He also pioneered the first sitar concertos, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic. “Oliver has done an amazing job of thoroughly researching Raviji’s life and presenting an unbiased true story. It will grip your attention from the very first chapter. No better time to read than now as we all are stuck at home with time in hand," says Pandit Ravi Shankar’s wife, Sukanya, on email.

Just like Anoushka and Sukanya Shankar, several other artists and cultural institutions are putting together concerts online to offer musical solace in these difficult times. Songwriter Prateek Kuhad has been revisiting past concerts and posting snippets from those on Instagram. Check out Kuhad’s post of Yeh Pal, which was held in Mumbai last year.

The Mumbai-based National Centre for the Performing Arts has created a presentation of some of its best concerts, to be streamed daily, 6pm onwards, on its YouTube channel. On 11 April, you can catch Path Of The Heart, a musical evening based on Bhakti poet Kabir by Satyasheel Deshpande. The others to look forward to are Rachmaninoff: Symphony No.2 by the Symphony Orchestra of India, with Martyn Brabbins as the conductor, and a special focus on Girija Devi, with compositions of Shambhunath Mishra and Shyamcharan Mishra of the Benaras gharana, being showcased on 13 and 14 April, respectively.

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