Of all the astonishing things that happened in the 1960s, the transformation of Ravi Shankar into global superstar and hippy hero is one of the hardest to explain to anyone who wasn’t there. Yet Oliver Craske’s superlative biography — the fruit of 130 interviews, exhaustive research on three continents and six years’ writing — achieves that and much more. Shankar’s protean 80-year career as mesmerising boy-dancer and virtuoso instrumentalist, joyous composer and inexhaustible Casanova is narrated in revelatory detail ... Still writing an opera on his deathbed at 92, the perpetually impish Shankar lived in a kind of wonderland conjured up by his musical genius and the effect it had on people. Craske evokes that world superbly; a masterly chronicle of a life teeming with all-too-human incident but heavenly inspiration.
In Oliver Craske, Shankar has attracted a biographer who understands the intricacies of classical Indian music and the labyrinths of a culture that believes there’s no enterprise that can’t be improved by being made more complicated – religion, language, family trees, music, railway timetables. His portrait of a restless, often melancholic genius is appropriately exhaustive, involving 130 fresh interviews and 100 pages of credits. There is much to explain ... Craske handles the niceties of Shankar’s personal life with diplomacy while staying focused on his subject’s musical mission and lifelong hunger for spiritual fulfilment. He wears his expertise lightly and his passion on his sleeve; a winning combination for a definitive work.
This first authorised biography is the product of 25 years’ research and interviews. For fans of Shankar and Indian classical, Oliver Craske’s mighty work will surely be a delight ... 'Now I am the music,' Shankar said in 2012, months before his death, and it is in his emotional playing that he lives on. Craske does him justice as a performer and composer: Shankar leaves a complex and enduring legacy that will be unpicked further by future disciples of his craft.
Writing such a penetrating portrait requires the ability to mirror Shankar’s lifelong dedication to cultural conversation, a task that is at one level impossible – as with all authentic translation. And yet, this book does a great deal to bridge the gap, and describe the challenge that Raviji (as he was known to those around him) faced in choosing to connect two very different worlds: the East, where divine presence infuses all thought and action, and the West, where a more materialistic outlook has held sway for centuries ... Craske is a very fluent, sober and clear writer.
Indian Sun is a hefty book, but it moves lightly. Craske worked with Shankar on his second autobiography in English, Raga Mala, and this is very much an authorised take, including lengthy quotes from Shankar’s family and friends. But Craske recounts fairly the criticisms of Shankar in his own country, and his sometimes strained relationships with other musicians. He also explores his complicated and extensive love life in detail.
Indian Sun is the first biography of Shankar. It will probably be the definitive work for now, though it may not be the best introduction to Shankar’s life and work ... Craske allows Shankar to speak for himself and to analyze himself. Shankar is surprisingly insightful about the emotional pain caused by his absent father, his many relationships with women from all over the world, and his complex interactions with his two daughters, Norah Jones and Anoushka, from two different mothers, both of whom went on to become successful musicians ... Indian Sun is long on psychiatry, but not quite long enough on contemporary history. Still, Craske points out that Shankar’s star began to rise at about the same time that India became an independent country ... Indian Sun would make Shankar himself proud.
Very few musicians merit a biography of 600-plus pages, but such is the case for sitarist, composer, and teacher Ravi Shankar. Craske, who worked closely with Shankar on his 1997 autobiography Raga Mala, covers every aspect of the artist’s life and work, paying close attention to Shankar’s personal and cultural relationship to India, with early chapters detailing his childhood and initial career as a dancer proving particularly evocative ...Compelling, informative, and the definitive book on this musical legend.