Danko Jones Pays Tribute to Late Sitar Pioneer Ravi Shankar
Danko Jones is one of the more outspoken musicians in rock and his viewpoint and willingness to speak out has made him the perfect guest columnist for the Huffington Post. This past week, the world lost music great Ravi Shankar who died at the age of 92 and Jones decided to dedicate this week’s column to remembering the sitar icon and Beatles collaborator and relating it to his own experiences with music growing up.
Jones reveals that he came from an academic family and that he and his parents rarely saw eye-to-eye on his passion for music, but while they didn’t always agree, one moment of bonding came when they took him to see Shankar at a young age. He explains, “I’m very grateful to my parents whether they realize it or not. I’m grateful to them for instilling me with a set of morals that I use as a compass to this day. I’m grateful for their love and care and their best intentions for me at all times. And I am grateful for that night they took me out, to stay up way past my bedtime, to see Ravi Shankar play with Alla Rakha at the Minkler Auditorium which used to be part of the Seneca College Newham Campus in Willowdale, Ontario when I was eight-years-old.”
The singer recalls, “I do remember that I was so not psyched to be in the audience before the show started. I saw a few long hairs and figured it must be a rock concert of some sort, but knew my parents HATED rock music, so it was confusing … My most vivid memory of watching this intimate performance, in basically a glorified college lecture hall, is watching Shankar play on the floor with his eyes closed — which I found mildly impressive — with his trusted tabla player, Alla Rakha, beating out rhythms by his side.”
Jones continues, “No matter how many great bands and great shows I’ve witnessed over the years, there’s no show that carries the weight of this one. And even though I didn’t appreciate the moment while it was happening, I remembered that feeling 15 years later when it hit me like a thunderbolt. My mind was being expanded and my music tastes widening, and I had seen Ravi Shankar. I remember sitting in my room kicking myself for not taking it all in properly. Even when I found out Shankar had passed away late this past Tuesday, it took me a full 10 minutes to remember that I had indeed seen him perform all those many years ago, so surreal is the memory.”
Jones says he never had a chance to see Shankar perform again, but his love for classical Indian music grew over time to the point where he took a World Music class at York University. He adds, “When my father made a trip home to New Delhi one year, I begged him to bring back as much Shankar music as he could fit in his luggage. I think the request surprised him but he gladly obliged. Coming from a household where academia was valued above all else and seeing the quiet sting of disappointment in my parent’s eyes when I chose a musical vocation, they can’t deny that by exposing me to Ravi Shankar at such an early age they were complicit in this rock ‘n’ roll thing I call a ‘job.’”
To read more of Danko Jones’ columns, check out his Huffington Post archive here