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Raga Mala

The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar

‘Back in 1994 we were thinking of ways to mark Ravi’s 75th birthday. I asked Brian Roylance if he wanted to publish a book and he said ‘yes’. Ravi liked the idea too, and then we started to prepare.’ – George Harrison

In 1994, George Harrison persuaded Ravi Shankar to write his autobiography, to celebrate the great musician’s 75th birthday. Over two years later, after extensive research, interviews and writing, Raga Mala was published to great success. Now 23 years later, on the occasion of the centenary of Ravi Shankar’s birth, we are delighted to release the final 450 copies in this critically acclaimed edition.

Ravi Shankar was the world’s foremost sitar-virtuoso and composer, the man christened by George Harrison as the ‘Godfather of World Music’, who spearheaded the international spread of Indian culture. He had a remarkable story to tell, and he brought to the task the same contrasting qualities that made him as uncommon a man as a musician: that mixture of charm and candour, of dignity and humility, of deep spirituality and wide-eyed, impish fun.

In Raga Mala, one of the twentieth century’s most important musicians shares his life story, with a foreword by Shankar’s close friend and guest editor, George Harrison, and an afterword by Yehudi Menuhin.

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The Manuscript

Raga Mala

'People always ask me what I want to be remembered by, and I would like it to be not for my mistakes, but for the things I was able to achieve - those that have touched the hearts of the people in my own country and beyond.' - Ravi Shankar

The title of the book, Raga Mala or 'Garland of Ragas' was chosen by Shankar as it refers to a style of playing where the musician plays a series of musical melodies while constantly returning to a main theme. As Shankar explains, this is how he went about recalling his memories and how the book might be received by the reader, one recollection sparking from another.

Shankar eloquently recalls his parents and his childhood in Benares, India; his commitment to music and the sitar and discipleship under guru Allauddin Khan; his move to the West and pioneering appreciation of Indian music in Europe and America in the 1950s and '60s; his 1966 meeting with George Harrison which led to lasting friendship, collaborations and superstardom. Shankar recalls pivotal moments such as performing at Monterey Pop, the Woodstock Festival, the Concert For Bangladesh, and performances with Harrison, Philip Glass, John Coltrane, Yehudi Menuhin, the London Symphony Orchestra, and many more.

Shankar shares his spiritual beliefs and speaks about his philosophy of music and art, discussing in detail the history and technique of playing the sitar, accompanied by a glossary of terms at the end of the book.

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The Photography

Raga Mala

'There is a quality of other-worldliness about a creative person such as Ravi that I greatly admire... He sees what we cannot see. When he creates a composition, he is carried away. As much as he creates, he is also being led.' - Yehudi Menuhin

The edition features a remarkable collection of nearly 300 photographs in black and white and colour, a large number of which had never been published before. Further items such as letters, notes, news clippings and hand-written sheet music, are drawn almost entirely from the personal archives of Ravi Shankar and those of the book's editor, George Harrison.
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The Limited Edition

Raga Mala

Originally published as a limited edition of 2000, only 450 copies remain.

Each book is signed by Ravi Shankar. Bound in Bangalore raw silk, specially created for this book, with gilt hand-tooling and gilded page edging, the edition is available in three colour choices: gold, purple and blue. Each is housed in a special slipcase.

Commemorating the centenary of Ravi Shankar's birth, Raga Mala now also includes an archival photographic print of a portrait taken at Shankar's home in California by the book's late publisher, Brian Roylance. The monochrome print is numbered and stamped, and is suitable for framing (size: 5" x 7" / 12½ x 17¾cm).

Classically elegant in design and presented to the very highest of standards, Raga Mala is a beautiful record of an extraordinary life.

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The Author

Raga Mala

'Music is his life... He is the music and the music is him.' - George Harrison

Synonymous in the west with the classical music of India, the maestro Ravi Shankar was revered in his homeland and credited with bringing the sounds of the Indian raga to the world stage. Ravi Shankar's career spanned decades, continents, art forms and musical genres. Perhaps best known to western audiences as the man who taught sitar to the Beatles' George Harrison, he was a sitar master, composer, innovator and peacemaker, and his influence still reverberates today.

Raga Mala

The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar

Select from the following editions:

Raga Mala

Raga Mala

  • ISBN:
  • Deluxe (Gold):
    175 copies
  • Signed by:
    Ravi Shankar
  • Contributors:
    George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin
  • Paper:
    High quality, acid-free 145gsm
  • Binding:
    Bound in Bangalore raw silk specially created for this book, with gilt hand-tooling and gilded page edging
  • Box:
    Silk-screened slipcase, blocked in gold leaf
  • Extras:
    Numbered and stamped 5 x 7 inch photographic print (12½cm x17¾cm)
The final copies. Shipping now.
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Ravi Shankar was the world's foremost sitar virtuoso and composer, the man christened by George Harrison as the 'Godfather of World Music', who spearheaded the international spread of Indian culture. Shankar’s career spanned decades, continents, art forms and musical genres all of which is recalled in this critically acclaimed autobiography.

  • Published Oct 2020
  • Page size: 235 x 168mm
  • 352 pages
  • 120000 words
  • 285 images
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