Ravi Shankar: Ragamala to Rockstar

Opening: Saturday, Nov 6, 2021 11 am – 6 pm
Saturday, Nov 6, 2021 – Mar 5, 2022

1925 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

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South Asia Institute Presents the first US Exhibition of Concert Poster Art, Photography and Film celebrating Ravi Shankar. A Retrospective of The Maestro's Life in Music.

The exhibition provides a rare glimpse into the legendary music icon’s eventful life and his overwhelming impact on the music world and pop culture.

Legendary sitar pioneer Ravi Shankar, whom George Harrison called the “Godfather of World Music”, was instrumental in bringing Indian classical music to mainstream audiences in the west. Shankar became a pop culture superstar and a celebrity unlike anyone who looked  or sounded like him before. South Asia Institute is very pleased to announce the debut of the art and music exhibition, “Ravi Shankar: Ragamala to Rockstar - A Retrospective of The Maestro's Life in Music”. The exhibition is an opportunity to experience the legendary musician’s groundbreaking career in music through an unprecedented collection of  rare concert posters, psychedelic art prints, flyers, photographs, videos, record covers and personal artifacts. Mentoring high-profile artists like Phillip Glass, John Coltrane, and George Harrison of The Beatles, Shankar’s musical diplomacy brought Eastern music and cultural ideology to mainstream Western culture.

Shankar’s influence led to Indian musical instruments and styles permeating popular music throughout the 1960s as he toured the U.S. and Europe extensively.  The extraordinary collection of concert art 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, Eugene Hawkins, is a further testament to his “Rockstar” status.  Popular portraits of Shankar by the famed photographers such as  Francesco Scavullo, Elliott Landy, Eric Hayes, Frank Seltier, Yousuf Karsh, Alan Kozlowski are also being exhibited.

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. The exhibition is curated by music promoter, collector and archivist Brian Keigher and Grammy nominated sitarist and disciple of Ravi Shankar, Gaurav Mazumdar, with assistance from Ravi Shankar’s biographer, Oliver Craske, and is supported by the Ravi Shankar Foundation and produced by People of Rhythm Productions.


About Ravi Shankar

For over eight decades, Ravi Shankar 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. Ravi 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 of The Beatles. Shankar reshaped the musical landscape across pop, jazz, and classical music and composed unforgettable scores for movies like Pather Panchali and Gandhi. No other musician has done as much for the world of Indian classical music and he remains an icon and a singular name in the field of creative and performing arts to this day. 


About the Curators

Gaurav Mazumdar 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, like 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 artiste to have performed at the Vatican and at the 'Concert for George' for the late George Harrison.

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 USA, Brian is the co-founder and curator for the concert event, Ragamala, the annual Indian classical music celebration and showcase 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.


About SAI

South Asia Institute cultivates the art and culture of South Asia and its diaspora through local and global collaboration, curated exhibitions, innovative programs and educational initiatives that aim to engage diverse communities. Artistic production by emerging and established artists is supported and cultural appreciation for the South Asian diaspora is fostered and the complexity of South Asian voices is explored, all the while staying connected with the larger human family. At South Asia Institute ethnic differences are celebrated not ignored, cultures are appreciated not misunderstood and people are uplifted through the power of the arts.

Although the first immigrants from South Asia arrived in the United States late 18th Century and now number over 3 million, very little of their history, art and culture is represented in mainline museums. Art and cultural expression bring together diverse peoples in a shared experience resulting in a better understanding and greater tolerance for ethnic differences. 

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. 


About the Founders

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 opened its doors in 2019. They are strongly committed to their mission and continuously explore avenues to advance it in meaningful ways.