The first U.S. exhibition of concert poster art, photography and film celebrating Ravi Shankar, “the Godfather of world music,” on view November 6, 2021 - March 5, 2022.
Exhibition opening on November 6 includes Married to the Maestro discussion with Shankar’s wife; Plus, the 8th Annual music festival Ragamala: A Celebration of Indian Classic Music
South Asia Institute, Chicago’s dynamic new center for cultivating the art and culture of South Asia and its diaspora, proudly announces the opening of Ravi Shankar: Ragamala to Rockstar, A Retrospective of the Maestro’s Life in Music, on view Saturday, November 6, through Saturday, March 5, 2022. The South Asia Institute is located in the city’s emerging Motor Row area at 1925 S. Michigan Avenue.
Sitar pioneer Ravi Shankar (1920-2012), whom George Harrison of The Beatles called the “Godfather of world music,” was instrumental in bringing Indian classical music to mainstream audiences in the west. His influence led to Indian musical instruments and styles permeating popular music throughout the 1960s as he toured the U.S. and Europe extensively. Mentoring high-profile artists like Harrison, Phillip Glass, and John Coltrane, Shankar’s musical diplomacy brought Eastern music and cultural ideology to mainstream Western culture. Shankar frequently performed at the Chicago Symphony Center from 1933 until his death in 2012.
Ravi Shankar: Ragamala to Rockstar, A Retrospective of The Maestro's Life in Music showcases the legendary musician’s groundbreaking career in music through an unprecedented collection of 100+ rare concert posters, psychedelic art prints, photographs, videos, record covers and personal artifacts. As a testament to Shankar’s “rock star” status, the exhibition showcases the extraordinary collection of international concert posters created by noted artists including Gary Grimshaw, Mort Drucker, Tom Wilkes, Gunther Kieser, Jan Steward, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, David Byrd, Steve Sachs, Bill Otterback, Norman Orr, and Eugene Hawkins, in addition to portraits of the musician by famed photographers such as Francesco Scavullo, Elliott Landy, Eric Hayes, Frank Seltier, Yousuf Karsh, and Alan Kozlowski.
The multi-media exhibition is accompanied by myriad public programming. On November 6 alone, visitors can participate in up to two free events: Married to the Maestro – taking place from 3:30-5 p.m. at South Asian Institute – features Shankar’s wife, Sukanya Shankar, who will candidly discuss her life with the ace sitarist. Chicago’s eighth annual music festival Ragamala: A Celebration of Indian Classical Music takes place from 6-10 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church (1936 South Michigan Avenue), across the street from the South Asia Institute. The musical event will feature four ensembles and nine guest artists paying tribute to the legendary sitarist. Food and beverage from Bombay Wraps will be available for purchase. Additional concerts, conversations, films and more will be announced shortly; event registration is required at www.saichicago.org.
Ravi Shankar: Ragamala to Rockstar is co-curated by music promoter, collector and archivist Brian Keigher and Grammy™-nominated sitarist and Shankar disciple Gaurav Mazumdar, with assistance from Ravi Shankar biographer Oliver Craske, and is supported by the Ravi Shankar Foundation and produced by People of Rhythm Productions.
“Shankar became a pop culture superstar and a celebrity unlike anyone who looked or sounded like him before,” said South Asia Institute Co-Founder Shireen Ahmad. “Just as Shankar’s music brought diverse musicians and audiences together, the mission of South Asia Institute is to unite people through the arts. It is our hope that through this exhibition and the associated programming, audiences will be exposed to the South Asian cultural heritage and develop a better appreciation for the customs and traditions of South Asian Americans.”
About Ravi Shankar
For over eight decades, Ravi Shankar (1920-2012), was India's greatest cultural ambassador bringing the East and the West closer through music. He was a groundbreaking performer and composer of Indian classical music who brought the music and rich culture of India to the world's leading concert halls and festivals, charting the map for those who followed in his footsteps. Shankar made it his life's mission to spread understanding and love of Indian classical music. He took it up himself in the 1920s and 1930s, after touring the world as a dancer in his famed brother Uday Shankar’s Hindu Music and Dance troupe. First, he played a leading role in its revival in India as a national classical art form; then, from the mid-1950s onward, he took it abroad to the world's foremost concert halls, festival stages and airwaves. He had a rare gift for making new audiences excited about previously alien music. He was renowned for playing at Monterey Pop and Woodstock festivals, creating the first all-star music benefit event, Concert for Bangladesh with George Harrison. Shankar reshaped the musical landscape across pop, jazz, and classical music and composed unforgettable scores for movies like Pather Panchali and Gandhi.
About the Curators
Chicago-native Brian Keigher is a live music event producer and music curator, a professional DJ, percussionist, and performing arts consultant. A producer with decades of experience programming events with the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (World Music Festival, Chicago SummerDance, Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center events), Keigher is also the Artistic Director for the World Music Institute in NYC and co-founder and co-curator of the Boston University Global Music Festival. A longtime champion and devoted presenter of South Asian classical music in the U.S., Keigher is the co-founder and curator of Ragamala, the annual Indian classical music celebration and showcase, now in its 8th year, which takes place as part of the Chicago World Music Festival. Keigher was a devoted follower of Ravi Shankar from an early age and a close Shankar family friend. Having contributed numerous items to the Ravi Shankar Foundation and Archives over the years, his enormous collection of Shankar ephemera forms the basis for the current exhibition.
Wisconsin-based Gaurav Mazumdar—who hails from Allahabad, India—is a Grammy-nominated virtuoso of the sitar for over 30 years, who has been offering audiences around the world compelling experiences with one of the world's most ancient and sacred traditions, that of Indian classical music. Through his performances and educational initiatives, he has championed the preservation of the art form and tradition. Like his teacher, the legendary Ravi Shankar, Mazumdar has also been committed to expanding it through cross-cultural exchanges, such as his Grammy-nominated performance with Daniel Hope, other East-West collaborations, his work with Philip Glass and his collaboration with the Hesse family on the ballet Siddhartha. His many achievements include being the only Indian artist to have performed at the Vatican and at the Concert for George for the late George Harrison.
About South Asia Institute and its Founders
Although the first immigrants from South Asia arrived in the United States in the late 18th Century and now number over three million, very little of their history, art and culture is represented in mainline museums. The South Asia Institute aims to cultivate the art and culture of South Asia and its diaspora through local and global collaborations, curated exhibitions, innovative programs, and educational initiatives that aim to engage diverse communities.
At the Institute the common heritage and identity of the South Asian Americans is showcased while celebrating the common connections and values that are shared with the universal community at large. Art and cultural expression bring together diverse peoples in a shared experience resulting in a better understanding and greater tolerance for ethnic differences.
First generation immigrants from South Asia and longtime residents of Chicago, it was the passion for South Asian Art that inspired the founders, Shireen and Afzal Ahmad, to assemble one of the most significant collections of South Asian art in the United States over a period of 50 years. The collection includes works ranging from early Moghul Miniatures to Modern and Contemporary masterpieces by artists from the region and the diaspora. Having enjoyed living with the works, it has always been their mission to share the collection on a much larger scale and promote South Asian Art and cultural heritage in the United States. It was with that goal in mind, that they established the South Asia Institute which unofficially opened its doors in October 2019, just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are strongly committed to their mission and continuously explore avenues to advance it in meaningful ways.
Exhibition hours and admission
Ravi Shankar: Ragamala to Rockstar will be on view starting November 6, 2021 - March 5, 2022. The South Asia Institute is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. General admission is $10, students with ID is $5. To make this exhibition accessible to all, there will be no admission charge on Fridays. Advance reservations are recommended by visiting www.saichicago.org. South Asia Institute adheres to the latest health guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; all guests must wear a facial covering regardless of vaccination.
For more information on South Asia Institute or the Ravi Shankar: Ragmala to Rockstar exhibition, please visit www.saichicago.org or call 312-929-3911.