By Soumya Gupta, Batch of 2017
‘She plays with great sensitivity and emotion, bending and twisting notes so that they pirouette like the dancers that spin around in interminable circles. Sometimes they leap from the great globe of the sitar and bolt like excited impalas as they ascend into the infinite blue.’
-The World Music Report
Anoushka Shankar is a thrice-nominated Grammy artist, an acclaimed writer, as well as an actor.
She is one of the major exponents of the World Music Scene. All this, at 33 years of age. She is also the daughter of the famous sitar maestro, late Ravi Shankar.
What Her Music Feels Like
Imagine a comfortable room, with dimmed lights floating in from outside, a light breeze flows in, the doors slightly ajar, and light banter between your loved ones. Take a deep breath, forget about all the worldly sentiments. One doesn’t have to make a conscious attempt to clear out one’s mind though, the music does it for you. Now try to imagine melodies which make you connect with your soul. They induce emotions in you, as every song is played. An old memory, a lost friend, a new joy, a lucky happenstance, an unhealed wound. Her music feels as raw as it it is elegant; it feels soothing, but it has its own strength to it; it brings you home to Varanasi as much as it takes you around the world.
Born in an environment of music, Shankar always had a musical bent of mind. She went professional by the age of 13. At 16, she signed her first contract. Ever since, she’s been creating a niche for herself in the world music industry. Her third album, ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ was nominated for the Grammys, making her the youngest and the only woman to be nominated for this category. Since then, she has been nominated twice for her albums, ‘Rise’and ‘Traveller’. It is said that she lost out on her award for ‘Traveller’, only to her father for an album he released the same year. She has released another album recently, ‘Traces of You’, which she dedicated to her recently passed-away father, Ravi Shankar.
Shankar usually delves into merging Indian sounds with other styles. In previous projects, she has merged Indian Classical with Spanish Flamenco, Jazz and even Electronica. As daring as that sounds, this innovation is exactly what sets her apart. And the impressive part is that none of her projects have fallen flat on the ground, all of them are highly acclaimed not just by critics but by souls around the world.
Her album ‘Breathing Under Water’ was an affair with Electronic music, and the result was a beautiful love child. Her track ‘Slither’ has a sharp sound as it genre-hops from the strings of the sitar to Kale’s percussion while ‘Easy’, featuring her half-sister-jazz-artist Norah Jones, oscillates gracefully between the vocals and the instrument. Her next album ‘Traveller’ explores the links between Indian music and Spanish flamenco, the result of ancient Gypsy migration. The best tracks are those where she is uninhibited with her sitar melodies against Flamenco percussions, this set epitomizes the impulsiveness of both Spanish and Indian music.
Her latest album, ‘Traces of You’ is in another paradigm from her former projects. Here, she’s at her vulnerable best making music about things or people which affect her. But the outspoken thing about the album is that she connects with the listener. Her grief, her joy, her fascination is not spoken but can be listened to, through her tracks. Another thing which sets this album apart is that one cannot categorize it as Indian Classical Music, Anoushka Shankar creates a whole genre for herself. So, it is not just Classical music, its Anoushka Shankar kind of music.
Why You Should Listen
Try out something new, why don’t you?
It’s Indian, but it’s not Bollywood. It’s International, but it’s not One Republic. It’s a different kind of music. It’s the kind of music which puts you in a meditative state, so, introspect. Find out the meaning of life and other mysteries. It’s a different trip altogether.