Another talent from one of the most renowned musical families is on her way to global stardom. From making music for Hollywood—scoring and singing for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and Tom Hanks-starrer Charlie Wilson’s War to collaborating with Peter Gabriel, Smashing Pumpkins and Katy Perry, singer-composer-violinist Gingger Shankar has done it all.
But the best is yet to come. Gingger is working on a new album, Nari, which is inspired by the two most important women in her life. “The idea came to me after the death of my grandmother Lakshmi Shankar in 2014. Dave Liang (my collaborator) and I were on our way to a concert in Washington DC. I told him about the scrapbooks she had given me and the story of her and my mother. He said that we had to do this project and I agreed,” shares Gingger in an email interview.
The album, which has 13 tracks, is in the post-production stage. “We are planning to release it by the end of 2015. I cannot wait to premiere it in India,” she says.
“It [Nari] is the unusual story of the lives of Lakshmi and Viji Shankar, two extraordinary artistes who helped bring Indian music to the West in the early 70s through their collaboration with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison,” says Gingger. “Rooted in conservative Indian culture, the stratosphere of rock and roll was a huge transportation, touring with the worthies Ravi Shankar, Billy Preston and George Harrison. The visuals of Nari will bring to light the pivotal, sacrificial role of the women in the revolution which bridged the East and the West,” she says.
“In Sanskrit, nari means both woman and sacrifice. The visuals will take the audience on a behind-the-scenes journey of my mother and grandmother’s incredible lives and career,” says Gingger.
The Los Angeles-based artist was in India in December 2014 with her collaborators for Nari, Dave Liang (producer of the electronic group The Shanghai Restoration Project) and Yunfan Sun (artistic director). “We have shot at various places, from Los Angeles and New York to Mumbai, where my mother grew up. The visuals will be a combination of film, archival footage, old photographs and concert posters, animation and fine art.”
Gingger attributes her growing strides to her genes. After all, her granduncle Ravi Shankar, grandmother Lakshmi Shankar and her parents, Vijayashree and violinist L Subramaniam, were no small names in the world of music.
Gingger, who is the only female artiste to have mastered the 10-string double violin, says she was bowled over by the instrument which has the entire orchestral range of violin, viola, bass and cello. She is happy that people are slowly hearing of it.
For Gingger, the floodgates opened in 2007 when she went to Sundance Composers Lab in Los Angeles and the opportunities to work with talent banks came in thick and fast. Though she has worked on two films based in India, most of the music was done in the US.
“Little Girl and the Robot is my music production company that does music and sound design for commercials and videos. We’ve had the opportunity to work with the UN, the Veteran’s Administration, People’s Television, Breakthrough and other great organisations. The idea of the name came from the hybrid of music (little girl) and sound design (the robot),” she says.
Raised in a family of musicians, having grown up with music around her, Gingger acknowledges she was lucky to be learning music and dance from a very young age.
On her Bollywood projects post Monsoon Shootout (2014), Gingger shares that Love Comes Later (2015) made it to the Cannes festival this year. Having worked with the legend Linda Perry, Gingger now hopes to soon work with A R Rahman, another of her favourite composers.
A product of Kalakshetra School in Chennai where she learned the nuances of dance and music, Gingger says it was her destiny to grow up in Los Angeles, the place that gave wings to her career.