In Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar, writer Oliver Craske presents readers with the first full portrait of this legendary figure, revealing the personal and professional story of a musician who influenced--and continues to influence--countless artists
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.
... extraordinary ... This is not a hagiographic portrait of a spiritual icon but a remarkably human life story, defined by familial failures, seething rivalries, physical frailty and relentless ambition. For anyone who has been moved by a Shankar recording, this is a portrait of the man behind the music and the unchartered waters of Shankar’s quest to save Indian classical music from extinction. With his elegant writing and extensive research, Craske manages to shatter Shankar’s cliche Eastern sage persona and rebuild his reputation as one of the giants of world music. Indian Sun transcends its subject by becoming something larger than a narrow timeline of an undeniably large life. In using Shankar as an axis, Craske has written a broader cultural history of music and hyphenated artists in the 20th century — a measured rumination on the possibilities and the price of artistic ambition ... For new generations of artists, Craske’s biography offers a kind of road map for those interested in drawing from other cultures but also for artists of minority backgrounds searching, at times meandering, through mainstream majorities that may not understand or see them ... Craske’s biography is a celebration easily experienced in the confines of home. With its annotated notes and its descriptions of specific recordings, Shankar’s music still holds the power to both electrify and soothe as it once did in the 1960s. Accompanied by easily assembled playlists from Shankar’s extraordinary back catalogue, this is a beautiful book, as resplendent as its subject’s music and life.
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.