Ravi Shankar Concert Photographs

Collection Overview

Date Range: January 10, 1976
Geographical Coverage: Kresge Auditorium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
Language(s): , Uncategorized (21)
Number of Items: 21
Item Types: Photograph (21)
Donor(s): Waris Warsi

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About the Collection

Collection Description
Photographs from a concert on January 10, 1976 performed by Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha at the Kresge Auditorium at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The photographs document moments from before, during, and after the concert.

The concert was organized by Sangam, the Indian students association at MIT. Images in this collection are copies of originals taken primarily by Waris Warsi, Sangam’s treasurer at the time of the concert.

Biographical History
Collection creator and donor Waris Warsi shared his memories about the concert in the following written description:

On January 10, 1976, Sangam, the Association of Indian students at MIT hosted a sitar concert by Pundit Ravi Shankar at the Kresge Auditorium at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. This concert by a world renowned maestro was truly a major undertaking for our club. A large section of the MIT Indian student body was involved in organizing of the concert. Amazingly various arrangements for the concert were accomplished like a clock-work.

Pandit Ravi Shankar’s party arrived a day before the concert from Maine and was welcomed at the Logan Airport. The next day Panditji with his party arrived early in the afternoon at Kresge. He was very particular about the stage arrangements. In fact, he had provided written instructions to Sangam about the types of microphones, their locations and volume settings to be used for his concert. Being satisfied with the arrangements, Panditji jokingly remarked, “these boys know their stuff!”. Following the stage inspection, the MIT CCTV team arrived for an interview and Punditji obliged.

As the time of the show approached the crowd began to build up in the Kresge lobby. The event was completely sold out and many in the crowd did not have tickets, hoping somehow the tickets would become available in the last minute. Naturally they were disappointed. Even after the start of the concert a small crowd was still gathered in the lobby refusing to leave. I later noticed them sitting in the aisles. Apparently, they received approval from the authorities. This shows the level of interest the concert had generated.

On the stage Pandit Ravi Shankar was accompanied by Ustad Alla Rakha on tabla and Nodu Mullick on tanpura. Not many people know about Nodu Mullick. He was the master craftsman who made and maintained the sitars for Pandit Ravi Shankar. The performance lasted about two hours. Pundit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Alla Rakha enthralled the audience throughout the concert. Punditji himself introduced the compositions and punctuated his commentaries by well-timed humor.

After the concert, Sangam hosted an informal dinner at Ashdown House, the MIT graduate student dormitory where many Indian students lived including me. In addition to the Sangam office bearers, many other Indian students from MIT and local institutions were present. The delicious meal was prepared by Nalini Srinivasan. The gathering was very informal as one might infer from the pictures. We can credit this primarily to Panditji. For example, upon meeting Sangam President K. Subramanian, Panditji broke into a classic song – “Subramanyam Subramanyam Shanmuganatha Subramanyam” – from the Carnatic music genre. Despite being a giant in music he made all of us feel comfortable in his presence.

The dinner was followed by informal conversations, group photographs and a brief interview with Panditji for our Indian radio show on WTBS that was co-hosted by Nalini and me. I recall that Ustad Alla Rakha had gathered some students around him and told them jokes in Punjabi language. The next morning Ravi Shankar and party departed and were seen off by Sangam representatives at Logan airport.

Nearly four decades have elapsed. There are no formal records of this event and our memories on the details are vague. The ticket price was modest, well below the prevailing rates for classical music events. Students paid a discounted price. Originally fee for panditji’s concert quoted by his agent was enormous, an order of magnitude larger than what Sangam would normally offer. In the end a much lower amount of $3000 was paid. It is my belief that Panditji extended his kindness to us by accepting the lower fee because we were a non-profit Indian student group. This is a testament to the magnanimity of this great artiste of huge reputation.

This concert by Pandit Ravi Shankar was a hallmark event for Sangam. It invigorated our cohesive energy. Above all Pandit Ravi Shankar’s charm, smile, simplicity and humor continue to live in our memories.

Waris E. Warsi Houston, Texas October 6, 2015

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Note: All the pictures were taken by me or I was present at the time of the pictures. The pictures have helped me recall some of the details. I have received valuable help from K. Subramanian, K.K. Sankaran and Lohit Konwar in preparing this submission.

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Related Materials

Collection Themes: Arts (21), Campus Organizations (11)

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Administrative Information

Access & Use: Items in this SAADA collection are open for research. Items may not be sold or redistributed, copied or distributed as a photograph, electronic file, or any other media without express written consent from the copyright holder and the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA). The user is responsible for all issues of copyright.

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