From Ravi Shankar's living room to Occidental College

ravi-shankar-music-circle.jpgRavi Shankar lived in and around Los Angeles for many years, teaching and performing his music. Occidental College posts a little remembrance today that connects the small size of Shankar's living room in Beverly Hills in the 1970s with a 40-year tradition of live Indian classical music at the Eagle Rock campus. The concerts are called the Music Circle.


Shankar, the internationally acclaimed sitarist, composer, teacher, and musical evangelist who died Tuesday, and student Harihar Rao, founded the Music Circle in 1971 to showcase Indian classical music. But the demand for concert seats quickly outstripped the capacity of Shankar’s Beverly Hills living room.

Then, one fateful day in 1973, Shankar and Rao were touring the Occidental campus, where Shankar’s son, the late Shubho Shankar ’75, was studying art. When the two men walked into Herrick Chapel, “The sunlight was streaming in and it was very, very impressive,” Rao said in a 2002 interview with Occidental magazine. “Ravi said it would be great for Indian music.”

Since 1973, the Music Circle has put on six to eight concerts a year in Herrick and occasionally in Thorne Hall, featuring top Indian artists primarily playing the northern style of classic Indian music, which dates back to the 12th century. (The Circle’s February 16 concert in Herrick will feature Aruna Narayan on sarangi and Vineet Vyas on tabla.)

Shankar's performances at Oxy would attract ex-Beatle George Harrison to the campus, the story says. “He would enter the side doors after the lights were dimmed. He didn’t want to be recognized,” Rao said.

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