As the New Year brings hope for new possibilities, the Indian arts and the traditional arts communities were met with the sad news of master artist Lakshmi Shankar’s passing. Ms. Shankar was regarded as one of the most important figures in North Indian Classical (Hindustani) music. Born in Jamshedpur, India, Shankar grew up first studying Bharata Natyam dance but because of health issues did not continue and shifted her focus to the study of vocal music, which was quite familiar because from the age of 3 Shankar would sing with her mother and had been exposed to different genres and styles of music. She first began studying Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) and then around 1954 in Mumbai, India, began a Guru Shishya (an intensive official mentorship) with Ustad Abdul Rehman learning Hindustani forms. Shankar continued her studies understanding the nuances of various genres and working in various lineages of master artists including Pandit Ravi Shankar. As an established artist, Lakshmi Shankar worked as an actress, a dancer, and ultimately as a vocalist in movies, concert halls, and recordings. For non-Indian audiences, she is best known for her contributions to the concerts and recordings of Ravi Shankar and George Harrison that were produced in 1974.
Shankar continued her career as a performer until 2008 when she decided that she was to focus her efforts in training the next generation of Indian classical vocalists. We at the Alliance for California Traditional arts are honored that we were able to support her efforts in teaching through our Apprenticeship Program, but we are much more humbled by her sharing of art, time, knowledge, and her presence.
For further information on Lakshmi Shankar see http://www.indiawest.com/news/15959-classical-vocalist-lakshmi-shankar-passes-away.html and http://actaonline.org/content/lakshmi-shankar.