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Pupil of Ravi Shankar ‘looks forward’ to centenary celebration at St George’s Hall, Harrow

By Finley Harnett


A Harrow resident taught by Ravi Shankar has said she is ‘looking forward’ to performing at a centenary concert in memory of the sitar maestro at St George’s Hall, Harrow, next month.

72-year-old Punita Gupta, of Kingsfield Avenue, was offered lessons by Shankar after she and husband Shambhu, 77, were invited backstage at a Royal Albert Hall concert in 1972.

Pupil of Ravi Shankar 'looks forward' to centenary celebration at St George's Hall, Harrow Harrow Online
Punita Gupta with Ravi Shankar at Ganda-Bandhan ceremony in 1973 (Credit: The Guptas).

Shambhu, who worked as a scientist, said: ‘I introduced myself to Ravi Shankar after the show. I said to him, “You play the sitar really well. My wife plays but she doesn’t play that well – I would like you to teach her”.


‘Shankar said to me: “Here’s the deal: I have a problem with my sitar strings. You sort out my sitar and I will teach her”. I didn’t know anything about sitar strings but he said, “You’re a scientist”. He had a lot of faith in scientists’, Shambhu added.

So began an enduring friendship between the Guptas and Shankar that lasted until the Grammy award-winning musician died in 2012.

Punita attended up to half a dozen lessons per year when Shankar was touring in Europe, mainly at his London base on Eaton Mews North, Belgravia – a home that was lent to Shankar by one of his other students, The Beatles’ George Harrison.

She forged her own successful career in sitar-teaching. Her students performed at the Royal Albert Hall’s Music for Youth Proms three times between 2006-08.

Shambhu continued to repair Shankar’s sitars and oversaw staging and merchandising on the UK legs of his tours.

Now Punita is practising for a performance inspired by Shankar’s music in celebration of his centenary.

Pupil of Ravi Shankar 'looks forward' to centenary celebration at St George's Hall, Harrow Harrow Online
Punita Gupta plays at home on 7 March 2020 (Credit: Finley Harnett).

She will perform alongside five of her current sitar pupils and two tabla players.

Punita said: ‘Ravi Shankar will be happy that even outside of India, we are promoting the Indian music and the instruments which he loved to a younger generation’.

‘It doesn’t matter how little or more they play – not everyone can reach super status – but at least they’re learning and appreciating the music’.

Ravi Shankar – who was described by George Harrison as ‘the godfather of world music’ – was influential in bridging the gap between Indian and western music before passing aged 92 in California.

The Ravi Shankar Centenary Celebration will take place at St George’s Hall, Pinner View, at 7.30pm on 24 April. Tickets are available from https://www.eventbrite.com/o/st-georges-headstone-29567236935

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