Ravi Shankar – legendary sitar player, composer, teacher and, in recent years, far and away India’s most outstanding ambassador of music, is awarded the 1998 Polar Music Prize for nearly six decades of achievement as a brilliant performer and explorer of his country’s art music and at the same time a leading representative and communicator to western civilisation of the musical traditions of the Orient.
In India itself, his position as a master of his instrument, the sitar, was long established when, in the 1950,s he embarked on the international career which was eventually to earn him a global reputation in music. Through innumerable concert tours, gramophone recordings and joint projects in large parts of the world, Ravi Shankar has done more than anybody else to build bridges of growing understanding and interest between Eastern and Western music.
His innate curiosity and desire for exploration beyond the established boundaries – always in a process of mutual inspiration – have led him to establish friendships and fruitful contacts with eminent musicians in many different places and many different kinds of music, ranging from Yehudi Menuhin to Hosan Yamamoto and The Beatles. As regards his own musical language, the result has been an extensive amalgamation of Indian and various western elements, for example in both musicals and film music.
For half a century now, a half-century characterised by pluralism and by a breath-taking global development of cultural interchange, Ravi Shankar, by virtue of his consummate musicianship and his unique efforts for the propagation of his country’s music, has stood out as one of the great musical personalities of our time.