Ravi Shankar: The Hippie Hater


The death of the Indian sitar maestro, Ravi Shankar (and the illegitimate dad of singer Norah Jones) earlier this week at the ripe age of 92 is no doubt a huge loss for the Woodstock generation. But to Shankar that generation was dead a


long time ago. He might have been an icon of the sixties hippies – for whom his ragas were like marijuana set to music – but his austere spiritualism had no use for them. In fact, Mick Brown points out in the Guardian, he regarded them as a somewhat repulsive and wretched lot whose adulation he didn't much relish (although, I'm sure, the moolah they lavished on him was just fine). Writes Brown:

Shankar could be a fastidious man. The rock audiences who came to pay homage he haughtily dismissed in his autobiography as "these strange young weirdos"; while his appearances at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals – the great quasi-religious gatherings of the alternative society – were apparently painful ordeals, where the audiences were "shrieking, shouting, smoking, masturbating and copulating – all in a drug-crazed state… I used to tell them, 'You don't behave like that when you go to hear a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart concert.'" Quite.

In fact:

For Ravi Shankar, for whom playing the sitar was a spiritual calling as well as a musical one, it was a cause of evident unhappiness to find the instrument he loved in lesser hands, and played in a bastardised form as a lazy musical shorthand for a wigged-out psychedelic experience. So distressed was he by the way his music was – as he saw it – misunderstood by pop audiences that after Woodstock he decided to "cleanse" himself by performing only in concert halls.

George Harrison should have realized he needed to hide his love away.

(My two cents: He might have been misunderstood–but he wasn't overrated–by them hippies. He truly was a great sitar player.)

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  1. (although, I’m sure, the mullah they lavished on him was just fine).

    They lavished him with a muslim spiritual leader? I think the word you’re looking for is “moolah”.

    1. BTW, I applaud him for his views on hippies. And I also respect him for playing only where he wanted to at great financial loss.

      1. Ravi Shankar and Cartman totally have the hippies pegged.

        1. I wonder how Slayer’s “Raining Blood” sounds when played on a sitar.

  2. Ok, well then we can have this dude as our token cool Indian dude:

    I drank cough syrup and zombies are after my heart

    Ok, well, he doesn’t play a weird instrument that you only typically see when high on shrooms, but he dranks cough syrup and zombies are after him.

  3. he dranks cough syrup and zombies are after him.

    Big fucking deal. I call that Wednesday.

    1. But, do you play the sitar on Tuesday?

      1. OK, he’s got me there.

        BTW, here’s a badass, if long, movie scene involving a sitar.

        1. That’s a guzheng, not a sitar! I ought to box your ears, you uncultured ruffian!

    2. For me, Monday is the bad day, because it’s the day that wifey starts reminding me that I drank too much beer on Saturday night and forgot to take the garbage out on Sunday… and Zombies, they stole my flip flops, just so that I couldn’t take the garbage out, and squirrels… I hate em.

      1. Sounds like just another Manic Monday. Do you wish it was Sunday when that happens? That should be your Funday, because you should’nt have to run late.

        1. *shudders*

  4. “‘You don’t behave like that when you go to hear a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart concert.'”

    Man should have learned to speak for himself, not for others.

  5. I love the clip of the fans applauding after he finished tuning.
    They had no idea what his music was about.
    He could have made up crap on the fly and they would have loved him because he was Eastern.

  6. My favorite Indian music import was Biddu. He composed Kung Fu Fighting with Carl Douglas, but also had a number of disco hits as well under his own Biddu Orchestra.

  7. You’ll get this if you understand Hindi. Dum maro dum….

    1. And speaking of Indian music…the fact that there is a bhangra band named “Panjabi by Nature” brings me much glee. (as does all the hot chicks in the video.)

      1. Yeah, I would definately like to be at that party. The chick in the red with the scarf is a total babe. I love the exotic colorful outfits Indian woman wear. It’s very hot.

        1. Yeah…it’s all about the chick in red. Though, the girl in blue with the aquiline nose has some very nice lips, if you know what I mean….

          1. Definately:)

    2. Of the 3 Indians that I work with, 2 of them don’t speak Hindi. I can’t remember how many different languages they told me that they have there, but most of them, it seems, don’t even have a written language.

      1. ^^This^^ is why Esperanto is needed now more than ever.

        1. You know who else wanted us all to know Esperanto?

          1. Jesus. I think I started getting an erection watching that.

            1. Poor Banjos

        2. Meu Deus, it’s an abomination. Why? Because nobody fucking cares, and life goes on.

          This Esperanto is doomed for oblivion, sort of like Chia Pets, and the AMC Pacer, and globalist fools.

          1. Chia Pets will never be doomed to oblivion after this.

            1. They are especially doomed, just because of that.

                1. Ok, well there comes a point when you have to confess.

                  Here is the checklist:

                  White male over 40: Check

                  Blue eyes: Check

                  Didn’t vote straight Democrat ticket last election: Check

                  Ok, I’m a racist.

                  1. Don’t feel bad. I had friends of 20 years tell me I was a racist for not voting for Obama.

            2. $18 is too much for a clay target.

      2. Well, as a professional linguist, I can tell you that the answer is about 1 gazillion. However, only 20 to 30 are major languages. Hindi, Panjabi, Bengali, Tegulu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam, and Marathi off the top of my head.

        Besides, if there weren’t so many languages, you wouldn’t have the fun of listening to this chick sing a song and have it sound like she keeps repeating the word “horny”.

        1. Very cool profession, bro. I have been fascinated by languages for some time now, even though I only speak 2, but would love to learn more. I think the next one doesn’t need to be a Latin Romance language to make it challenging… Maybe Mandarin, but wow, it looks so difficult.

          1. If you’re going to approach Mandarin. I’d suggest cutting your teeth on a tonal language that, at least, has an alphabet…like Thai or Vietnamese.

            If you’re not learning it just for fun, the big money is in learning Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, and other Brown people languages at the moment.

            1. I just finished my third semester of Arabic, and for me, this class was harder than differential equations. I like it a lot though, it’s an interesting process.

              1. Morning cap l. Arabic huh? You are a braver soul than I. Mandarin? Jeepers! When a language has ~30,000 characters and fluency level is considered ~3,000 or so, no thanks!

                1. I wish I would have done it when I was younger, I think that unless you’re 16 and under it gets very difficult to learn a language. I can feel my brain rebelling against this unknown thing.

                  1. Well, speaking from experience, and I am certainly not at the level of HM in my polyglottism, it really does depend on reason why you are learning the language, as well as natural aptitude.

                    Though you are correct, the younger you are, the more plastic the brain and your labials, dentals, gutterals, and palatals are, and it makes it much easier to develop the accent for a given language.

                    Take math for example; that’s a language unto itself in medicine, since a great many of the body’s processes and enzymatic pathways are expressed mathematically, and Latin, of course.

                    When it comes to languages, Heroic Mulatto is smarter than all of us put together.

                  2. Also, culture appreciation is imperative and definitely helps with concretely solidifying accent, pronunciation, and vocabulary, as well as diction, grammar and syntax.

          2. I found Mandarin easier than Spanish. Sure the writing and reading is difficult, but the verb conjugation and verb tenses of most romance languages was always my biggest hurdle, so not having to deal with that in Mandarin was helpful.

            The Rosetta Stone program for Mandarin wasn’t very good IMO too, so go for traditional classes, which I found to be more fruitful.

        2. Heroic Mulatto| 12.13.12 @ 11:51PM |#
          “Well, as a professional linguist,…”

          Question for you: Ever read “Alpha Beta” (Mann)? The Hangul Korean alphabet sounds like a wonder!
          (and yes, I know well that a linguist is not the same as those who study the written word).

          1. No I haven’t read it, but I just added it to my Amazon buy list. 🙂

            Linguists do study writing systems. For example, we study graphemes and how they correspond to phonemes (sounds) or in the case of a language like Chinese, sememes (meaning).

            Yes. Hangul is a very elegant writing system. As far as I know, it’s the most phonologically specific writing system out there. Featural, is the correct terminology. In Korean, you can look at a letter and know exactly where and how you need to articulate. I always feel bad when I have to explain to my Korean, and other languages that make sense, students that English has anywhere from 15 to 20 vowel sounds (depending on accent) spread across five graphemes A,E,I,O,U.

            1. Heroic Mulatto| 12.14.12 @ 12:10AM |#
              “Linguists do study writing systems. For example, we study graphemes and how they correspond to phonemes (sounds) or in the case of a language like Chinese, sememes (meaning).”

              Pretty much the theme of that book; love to hear your opinion of it.

        3. Poor Professor Higgins Heroic Mulatto!
          Poor Professor Higgins Heroic Mulatto!
          On he plods against all odds

          [male Servant]
          Oh Poor Professor Higgins Heroic Mulatto

          Nine p.m.
          Ten p.m.
          On through midnight every night
          One a.m.
          Two a.m.

          [Higgins HM]
          six marbles.
          There we are Eliza Warty

          [Eliza Warty]
          “With bla’est moss, the flower pots–”
          “I can’t, I can’t”

          [Pickering Episiarch]
          I say, Higgins Heroic, are those
          pebbles really necessary?

          [Higgins HM]
          If they were necessary for Demosthenes,
          they are necessary for Eliza Doolittle Warty Wartington.
          Go on, Eliza Warty.

          Quit, Professor Higgins Heroic Mulatto!
          Quit, Professor Higgins Heroic Mulatto!
          Hear our plea
          Or payday we
          Will quit, Professor Higgins Heroic Mulatto!

          “A,” not I
          “O,” not ow
          Pounding, pounding
          In our brain

          “A,” not I
          “O,” not ow
          Don’t say “rine”
          Say “rain”

          Now, Eliza Warty, try it again

          1. Jesus, I just realize that I really do have the same job as Prof. ‘Iggins.

  8. …”but his austere spiritualism had no use for them”…
    I remember reading that it cost a hell of a lot of money for his supporters to keep Ghandi in poverty; how “austere” was Shankar’s “spiritualism”?
    Sort of like the Greeks are now experiencing ‘austerity’? Sort of like how the US is suffering ‘massive budget cuts’? That sort of austerity?

  9. “For Ravi Shankar, for whom playing the sitar was a spiritual calling as well as a musical one, […] he decided to “cleanse” himself by performing only in concert halls.”

    Ya know, he could have ‘cleansed’ himself by playing in his back yard, but I’ll bet that ‘cleansing’ didn’t pay quite as well as those concert halls.
    The Beatles get no pass from me; this guy gets none either; wealthy snobbish bastards.

  10. “I used to tell them, ‘You don’t behave like that when you go to hear a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart concert.'”

    Exactly, everyone knows that while listening to Bach or Mozart you should be building a doomsday device or killing someone, not smoking weed or fornicating.

    It’s in Ebert’s laws of movies.

    1. Don’t talk shit about Roger Ebert!

      1. Look, I was *citing* Ebert as an *authority.* Don’t be so sensitive on his behalf!



        1. Actually, it was Beyond the Valley of the Dolls that Ebert wrote.

          Sparkle, Archduke, sparkle!

      3. Oh, don’t take it on the chin, sloop, or lead with it, FTM. EvH is correct, as is Ebert.

        I keep Bach on my surgery music playlist for some procedures, though I have a pretty eclectic list.

        1. I play Rossini when putting my Droogs in their place.

  11. “Do right by your fans” Obama weighs in on the NHL Lockout

  12. That dude seriously needs to get over himself.

  13. George Harrison should have realized he needed to hide his love away.

    Shikha said it all though not many had ears, all those years ago.

  14. Oh yeah, sitar music. At least as enjoyable as having needles stuck in your eyes.

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