India has produced a myriad of talents in music, and the nation is famous for its classical music, its melody, and uniqueness. There are so many musicians in India who have illustrious musical oeuvre and have won several accolades. Some of them even went on to win the highest civilian awards. They have contributed to Indian music with their unparalleled compositions. Many fans literally worship some of the musicians in India. However, there are some musicians of Indian origin who gained international recognition.
Here’s the list of 10 such musicians who are acclaimed internationally –
1. Pandit Ravi Shankar –
Pandit Ravi Shankar is a Bengali Indian musician, who is revered as the most esteemed ambassador of music in Indian. His renditions were mainly Hindustani Classical music. He had gained mastery in Sitar playing, something which has remained unrivaled in Indian music scene. He had pioneered Sitar compositions in India and West as well. His most remarkable work is Pather Panchali, which was a film by Satyajit Ray. The eminent musician has also toured Europe and America for his Indian Classical rendition. He had became even more famous for his association with violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, and The Beatles lead guitarist, George Harrison – who also learned Sitar with Pandit Ravi Shankar and implemented it in some of the songs like ‘Norwegian Wood’, ‘Love You Too’ and ‘Within You Without You’. He had also received the highest Civilian award – Bharat Ratna in 1999.
2. Zakir Hussain –
Zakir Hussain is a Tabla player in Hindustani Classical music. From a very young age, he started playing Tabla with greats like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Bheemsen Joshi, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Pandit Jasraj. Before the emergence of this maestro, people used to attend classical music shows for its melody, but Zakir Hussain created his own niche and set precedence for the coming generations of Tabla players with his Tabla solos. In his career as a Tabla player, he has gained international recognition and has toured the US and Europe and has collaborated with various other artists like John McLaughlin, John Handy, Jan Garbarek and Pat Martino to name a few. He has played Tabla for the soundtracks of films like Francis Ford Copolla’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ and also Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha. In 2002, Zakir Hussain was also awarded Padma Bhushan.
3. Ustad Bismillah Khan –
Ustad Bismillah Khan was an Indian musician who popularized Shehnai instrument with his renditions and brought it to concert stage. He is well-known to have performed live at the Red Fort in Delhi, when India’s first Prime Minister invited him to come and perform. The eminent musician did not limit himself to just Indian audience but performed for global audience at Cannes Art Festival, Osaka Trade Fair, and World Exposition in Montreal. Apart from that, he has also played Shehnai for music in Indian films such as Goonj Uthi Shehnai and Swades (which happened to be his last offering in films). Dr. Soma Ghosh has carried forward his legacy. She is a vocalist and his student S. Ballesh who played Shehnai in 2011 film Rockstar. He had also received an award – Bharat Ratna in 2002.
4. Ilaiyaraaja –
Ilaiyaraaja is an Indian film composer and lyricist, who predominantly composes songs in Tamil. He merges the essence of western music in the Indian mainstream music. He is celebrated internationally as his scores are often performed by Budapest Symphony Orchestra. His compositions were also part of 2012 London Olympics playlist. He is an elusive musician and rarely performs live. However, his first appearance in North America gained him a lot of praise and over the years, the famous music director has offered live performances in Toronto, HP Pavilion San Jose, and The O2 Arena in London. He has also performed in Italy at the ‘Teatro Comunale di Modena’. The musician has won several accolades for his compositions in films. He also recently received the award – Padma Vibhushan in 2018.
5. Anoushka Shankar –
Anoushka Shankar is a Sitar player and daughter of legendary Indian Sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar, and half-sister of Norah Jones. She started accompanying her father in world tours at a tender age of 14. She gained prominence as a solo music concert performer very early in her music career and toured worldwide with an average of over 50 concerts in a year. She had also performed in the “Concert of George”, which was a tribute to George Harrison in Royal Albert Hall, London. Robert Gere and Philip Glass had also invited her to perform in a concert at the Avery Fisher Hall in 2003 which was a concert for peace. Grammy awards had nominated Anoushka Shankar in 2003. She also became the youngest ever nominee and also first woman nominee in the world music category for the third album, ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’.
6. M.S. Subbulakshmi –
She was a Carnatic music legend. Subbulakshmi had started performing in concerts at the age of 17 and gained International fame. She traveled to London, New York, Canada, The Far East, and other places as India’s cultural ambassador. Some of her best concerts have been at Edinburg International Festival of Music and Drama, Carnegie Hall Concert, Royal Albert Hall and also Festival of India in Moscow. Her best musical offering was when she was invited by United Nations to perform live and her performance was unanimously lauded by one and all. She was also revered as “Queen of Music” by Jawaharlal Nehru. Moreover, Subbulakshmi was the first musician to be awarded India’s highest civilian award – Bharat Ratna. She is also the first Indian to receive Ramon Magsaysay Award. It is also regarded as an Asian Nobel Prize award.
7. Zubin Mehta –
Zubin Mehta, who hails from Mumbai, Maharashtra is an Indian Conductor of Western Classical Music, and the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He started winning international competitions soon in his career and conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic at the age of 21. He has been the Music Director of Los Angeles Philharmonic. In his career spanning almost 60 years now, the musician has conducted a myriad of orchestras around the globe. He also conducted a concert in Vienna which is called the “Capital of Western Music”, where he received 20 minutes ovation and fourteen curtain calls. Mehta has been awarded plenty of accolades, some of which are Praemium Imperiale (Japan), Hollywood Walk of Fame, Echo Klassic (Berlin) and also Tagore Award for his enormous contribution towards cultural music.
8. Shankar-Jaikishan –
Shankar-Jaikishan is music director duo who gave music in Hindi Cinema. They were known for their melodious composition, and were staple music composers for almost all Raj Kapoor’s Films that were made under RK Productions. The composers are a rare breed of Hindi film music directors that got international recognition. Their major contribution to Indian Music Scene is Raaga-Jazz. They also composed Jazz in Indian style leading to a new genre called Indo-Jazz. Owing to the fact that Raj Kapoor’s films were famous among Soviet Union audience, it is interesting to note Shankar Jaikishan’s songs are still famous among music lovers in Russia. Also, their most famous song Awaara Hoon was performed in a live performance in Uzbekistan. They had also got the award of Padmashree in 1968.
9. A. R. Rahman –
A.R. Rahman is living Indian film music doyen who has composed music for Hindi and Tamil films along with his personal albums. He is perhaps the most prolific of contemporary Indian musicians who have gained world recognition and travels abroad for concerts. Much of that is credit has gone to his composition for Danny Boyle’s film, Slumdog Millionaire. However, he was famous internationally even before that. Since 2004, Rahman has successfully toured the world and performed in Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. He was also one of the artists who contributed to “We are the World 25 for Haiti” in 2010. Rahman has several international accolades to his name such as Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and two Academy Awards at the 81st Academy Awards for best song – Jai Ho and also the Best Music Original Score for Slumdog Millionaire.
10. Freddie Mercury –
Mercury – the lead vocalist of the band Queen is revered as one of the best vocalists that world has ever witnessed. He was born as Forrokh Bulsara and spent many parts of his childhood in Dadar Parsi Colony, Mumbai (then Bombay) and Panchgani boarding school. At the age of 17, he moved to England, and the rest is history. He has over 200 songs to his name as a lead vocalist and traveled to the world for live concerts. Freddie, along with his band had received a Brit Award for outstanding contribution in British music. He is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
With time moving towards frivolous music in remixes and rehashes of old Bollywood song, the real musicians are fading. This is a depressing vista for Indian Music Scene. However, India does have great music composers and vocalists who join hand to produce some outstanding original music, and it’s quite evident in the music TV Shows that have become the talk of the town with so many artists performing live in them.
We hope that good music will supersede flippant spin-offs, and also these superior musicians will get their share of international recognition.