Writings about Music

Robindro-Robinson Dream

Pretty nice dream I had. After a performance, walking up the aisle towards the lobby of the auditorium, Ravi Shankar, whose first name at birth was "Robindro," stopped at where I was sitting to tell me to ask the organizer to play my upcoming album, The Waters' Child, for a scenic festival of music that in retrospect seemed like the Woodstock festival, if perhaps not quite so large a scale.

I had to get my car to drive there, and then was walking on a dirt road with other people like in the Woodstock film. Speaking with several of them walking alongside me, they said it would expedite things if I got back on the highway and drove three more exits. Someone else gave me an old-fashioned phone that nonetheless worked without any electrical cord, and said to simply phone ahead Ravi's request even though doing so would not allow me to be there while the album was played. I made the call successfully with some slight regret at missing The Waters' Child as part of the audience before waking up.

Reminds me of when Ray Manzarek played at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood with Indian and Arabic musicians I assembled and rehearsed with him, and in the half-hour prior to their taking the stage, the management played my Adorned With Pearl album on the extraordinary house sound system at full volume.

This was a lovely affirmation being visited by Ravi Shankar to compliment my new album even if it was only a dream, then upon waking losing myself in a Robindro-Robinson reverie. Was delighted a while back upon learning how "Robindro" was Ravi's original name, sounding similar to "Robinson," the name my grandparents from Russia also changed from "Rabinovitz."

"Robindro" is spelled "Robindra" in Sanskrit, and the original family name was "Chowdhury," changed to "Shankar" by Ravi's father. "Ravi" is short for "Ravindra," the name change Shankar initially made at 19 or 20 for radio audiences so that he would be recognized as Indian rather than Bengali. Both "Robindro" or "Robindra" and "Ravindra" all translate to mean the sun. Shankar's nickname early on was "Robi," the same nickname my sports teammates had for me in junior high school. Later on, but before changing to "Ravi," Shankar's nickname became "Robu." My grandparents changed their last name at the urging of my uncle for the purpose of avoiding anti-Semitism. My mother once told me that my middle name of "Eric" was chosen so that my initials would be "MER," related to the last syllable of the first name of Vladimir Horowitz.

- Michael Robinson, June 2020, Los Angeles

 

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Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).