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The story of the sitar Beatles used in 'Norwegian Wood'

Harrison bought the sitar from a shop called Indiacraft on Oxford Street in London

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Do you know that during the recording of the Beatles' iconic song 'Norwegian Wood', one of the strings of the sitar played by George Harrison broke leaving him with no clue about how to replace it until he was helped by none other than Indian political activist in Britain Ayana Angadi?

This and several other titbits about the Fab Four and their India connection are mentioned in an article in "The Equator Line" magazine written by American freelance writer Robert Cepican.

Harrison bought the sitar from a shop called Indiacraft on Oxford Street in London and John Lennon suggested using it for the first time in the song 'Norwegian Wood'.

The Beatles-India story took an interesting twist during the recording of 'Norwegian Wood'. Whether it was divine intervention or the product of a 'real crummy' sitar, one of the strings on the instrument broke," writes Cepican in the piece titled "The Yogi and the Fab Four".

Written by Lennon and Paul McCartney, 'Norwegian Wood' was recorded in October 1965 and released on December 6, 1965. Cepican, who is the author of "Yesterday Came Suddenly, The History of the Beatles" and is working on another book on the legendary British band, says Harrison had no clue how to replace the broken string.

"Producer George Martin stepped in and suggested that he contact Ayana Angadi, the co-founder of the Asian Music Circle (AMC). Angadi had provided George Martin with authentic Indian musicians five years earlier on a song, recorded with Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, called 'Goodness Gracious Me'," he writes.

Shankara Angadi, Ayana's son, recalls, "As luck would have it, we did have some sitar strings in the house, and the whole family went down to the studio at Abbey Road and watched them record, from behind the glass."


The simple act of a sitar string breaking had a profound influence on the direction of Harrison's life. Indian music had been completely unknown to him but for the next two years, Ayana Angadi and the AMC would mentor Harrison in the study of Indian classical music. The organisation had two sitar teachers, one of whom became Harrison's first teacher, but according to Shankara, no one seems to remember his name.

The AMC would provide authentic Indian musicians for Harrison's next two Indian songs - 'Love you to', which appeared on 'Revolver'; and 'Within you without you', which appeared on 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band'. George wrote 'Love you to' to draw more attention to the sitar. It was also the first Beatles recording to give credit on the album cover to a musician outside the group, an Indian musician named Anil Bhagwat, who played the tabla.

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First Published: Sun, August 02 2015. 13:25 IST
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