Teaching George Harrison to play the sitar was more than showing him where to put his fingers and how to strum the strings. Indian classical music is all about rhythm, using drones to an almost-hypnotic extent – it couldn't be further from the 3-and-a-half-minute rock song. Music and religion are part and parcel in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, with chants and drones forming a central part of ceremonies and meditations. So it's easy to see why Ravi Shankar was hesitant to teach Harrison, but sharing that history and philosophy with George was the beginning of an explosion in the popularity of classical Indian music and culture around the world.
Charting Ravi Shankar's legacy is an enormous task. More than a simple musician, Shankar shared the cultural context of India's traditional music, which is deeply entwined with spirituality across the nation's many distinct cultures. It's fitting, then, that the Blackwing Volume 3 release celebrating Shankar's 100th birthday features the Brahman ॐ (Om), a sound and symbol with tremendous significance. This simple syllable represents the soul, or inner self, and ultimate reality. The Upanishads talk of Om as a "cosmic sound", while Vedic texts connect it to wisdom. What better way to honour Shankar's contributions to music and spirituality both at home at in the wider world? Even the number 3 has special significance, with Om having three phonetic components (a + u + ṃ), which correspond to the three stages of cosmic creation and celebrate the creative powers of the universe when spoken or read.
Volume 3 pencils feature deep yellow finish inspired by turmeric (a root vegetable used in dals and masalas to add colour and earthy flavour), with sunny gold accents drawn from the name Ravi's literal meaning ("sun" in Hindi).
Accompanying these beautiful pencils is a Blackwing first – a limited edition yellow and orange 7" vinyl, with a song composed and recorded specially to celebrate Shankar's 100th birthday. Featuring members of Wilco, Stone Temple Pilots, Dawes, and Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges, "Inside The Infinite Om" is a beautiful tribute to an icon who changed the face of music and spirituality through his life and work.
Because Shankar's legacy extends beyond his life on Earth, Blackwing will donate a portion of every pack sold to the Ravi Shankar Foundation and their mission to “preserve the diversity of cultures and richness of their arts.” Learn more at RaviShankar.org.
The Blackwing Volume 3 collection lands in Australia this September.
Don't miss out – place your pre-order for Volume 3 here.