Vasant Rai (1942-1985) was one of world's most acclaimed performers of Indian music and virtuoso of the Indian-Persian-Afghan instrument Sarod.
Personal life and education:
Rai was born in France and studied music in India. Rai was the last student of Allauddin Khan, who is best known as the teacher of Ravi Shankar.
He died in his New York apartment shortly after a Carnegie Hall performance.
Rai had been coming to the United States since his teen years but finally settled in New York City in 1969 and lived mainly in the Greenwich Village area and also for a short time at the Chelsea Hotel when he was not touring. From 1969 to 1985 he conducted the Alam School of Music in Greenwich Village. Alla Rakha, Mahapurush Misra, Shamta Prasad, and Zakir Hussain usually accompanied him on the tabla.
Rai had been signed exclusively by Vanguard Records from 1975 to 1982. Vasant's first commercial recording was by EMI and on the tabla was the late Alla Rakha.
During the early 1980s, Rai and the jazz flutist Herbie Mann jammed together live on weekend nights at packed venues such as the Bottom Line and Village Gate. Vasant Rai taught many Western musicians such as George Harrison, John Coltrane, Collin Walcott and other rock and jazz personalities of that time.
Rai also trained a number of Indian classical musicians. The more noted ones are sarod players Pradeep Kumar Barot, Ashok Roy,
Stephen James, and sitar players Amiya Das Gupta, Deepak Chaudhary and Shamim Khan. Vasant Rai's sarod was a gift from his guru Allauddin Khan, was made by Allauddin Khan's younger brother Ayet Ali Khan in the 1930s.