But it was his daughter, Anoushka, who did the honours for the fusion. He had composed his Sitar Concerto Number 1 in 1971, and premiered it himself. But he has been her teacher and, at 24, having absorbed his art, she's starting to do her own thing with it - and this piece gave her much leeway to do so here.
Busy strings disrupted her soft opening cascade, but then her sitar was allowed to take wing, with the ideas developing in the proper north Indian manner. The harp became her accomplice, pizzicato cellos underpinned her, and bassoons echoed her phrases: once she'd shown who was boss, things bowled sweetly along. This 34-year-old fusion had none of the pretentiousness of its contemporary equivalents: the two cultures complemented each other's strengths.
When Ravi Shankar himself came to join her, he got an instant ovation: after all, he had brought us Indian classical music and 50 years later he is still its presiding deity. His voice was firm, his touch authoritative and his invention fresh: as the first raga unfolded like a flower, 500 listeners sat still and rapt. And when Anoushka chimed in, the rapport was total. Ravi Shankar may play like a man of 20, but he's now 85: how much longer can he go on? No matter: his successor sits before us, embodying this tradition's inexhaustible vigour.
But this concert raises an issue now growing in importance, given white Britain's need to show respect for the other cultures dwelling alongside it. As Robert Maycock observes in his excellent programme note, the north Indian classical tradition is as highly evolved as the one the rest of the Proms celebrate: Ravi Shankar's request that the audience should not eat or drink during the performance was another way of making the same point. This music should be seen for what it is: a sacred rite, not exotic musical colour for jaded Western palates.
Every year the Proms make a ritual nod towards the world's other classical musics: this was never enough and is starting to look like a dereliction of duty. Proms supremo Nicholas Kenyon argues that his duty is to celebrate Western classical tradition. I would argue that, in a changing world, this duty should be redefined. Let the other classical musics - Persian, Arabic, Indonesian, Japanese - be celebrated too.Reuse content