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Memorial at Oxy for Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar and His Pupil

Harihar Rao, 85, died just a month after Shankar, 92.

Occidental College is scheduled to hold a memorial service for Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and his longtime disciple Harihar Rao on Saturday.

Shankar died at the age of 92 in San Diego on Dec. 11. Rao, a resident of Pasadena, died Jan. 13. He was 85.

The Jan. 26 memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. at Thorne Hall and will include “musical offerings, short personal remembrances and keepsakes for the audience,” according to the Occidental College website.

In 1973, Shankar and Rao co-founded the Music Circle, an arts nonprofit group that regularly holds music and dance concerts from September through June at Oxy, making the college Southern California’s premier venue for Indian classical music.

The Music Circle was created in a flash of inspiration on a bright day in 1973 while the sitar virtuoso and his pupil were touring Oxy, where Shankar’s son, the late Shubho Shankar ’75, was studying art.

When the two men walked into Oxy’s Herrick Chapel, “the sunlight was streaming in and it was very, very impressive,” Rao told Occidental magazine in a 2002 interview. “Ravi said it would be great for Indian music.”

The Music Circle organizes six to eight concerts every year in Herrick Chapel and occasionally in Thorne Hall, featuring eminent Indian artists who primarily play Hindustani, the northern Indian style of classic Indian music dating back to the 12th century.

(The Music Circle’s next concert will be in Herrick Chapel on Feb. 16. The performance will feature Aruna Narayan on sarangi and Vineet Vyas on tabla.)

Shankar, whose most famous student was former Beatle George Harrison, made several appearances at Oxy to hear Music Circle concerts. The shows often attracted Harrison, too, who would typically enter the venue through the side doors “after the lights were dimmed,” Rao was quoted as telling Occidental magazine. “He didn’t want to be recognized.”

Admission to Saturday’s memorial is free. Donations to the Music Circle in memory of Shankar and Rao are, however, appreciated. 

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