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Music has become more free over years: Anoushka Shankar

Shankar, who went through periods of confusion and uncertainty over choosing her style initially, has extensively created 'crossover music' with non-classical music styles.

Published: 24th September 2020 07:03 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2020 07:03 PM   |  A+A-

Sitarist Anoushka Shankar

Sitarist Anoushka Shankar (Photo| Facebook)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar was the first among the very few to go beyond the boundaries of Hindustani classical music to work with different music styles.

His daughter, sitarist Anoushka Shankar, who has experimented with crossover music, said she is grateful the music scene has become more liberal since and allows her to explore various genres and forms.

"It was really rare for people to cross over, there were very few examples of some legends who had managed to have a career in classical music and explore other forms but it was definitely something that people of my generation found scary," Shankar told PTI in an email interview.

The 39-year-old, who had her father Ravi Shankar as her guru and often shared the stage with him, remembers the time when being able to explore music freely and experiment with different styles was looked down upon and not be approved of by the masters.

"I feel in the last 20-25 years things have opened up so much when I visit teenagers who are beginning to play. Over the years it has become normal for people to experiment. I haven't personally seen that kind of great disapproval anymore," the London-based musician said.

Shankar, who went through periods of confusion and uncertainty over choosing her style initially, has extensively created "crossover music" with non-classical music styles such as jazz, electronica, flamenco and blues.

"I have definitely gone through phases of wondering if I belong or if I am giving that enough, doing enough. But, I guess, overall I feel very grateful that I have been able to have a career making music quite freely, you know getting to explore and experiment with multiple styles and making music that comes from my heart, from my own authentic desires," the sitar virtuoso said.

Besides performing as a solo sitarist, her compositional work has led to several cross-cultural collaborations with artistes such as Sting, rapper M.I.A, pianist Herbie Hancock, Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela and violinist Joshua Bell.

Apart from co-writing the music for the British TV series "A Suitable Boy", Shankar also worked with Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on his first studio album "Inner World".

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world and sent everyone scurrying indoors, Shankar was planning a tour with her sister Norah Jones and other famous artistes to celebrate the birth centenary of Ravi Shankar.

The months that followed not just gave her "some of the most amazing times" with her children but also made her more independent in creating her music. "I tried to allow things to be as simple and flexible as possible. And just get one day at a time responding to the situation as it was. I had a lot of challenging times with things like learning how to record myself, but also I found that very rewarding...I felt really proud of the independence that I have gained in music as well," the mother of two said.

The six-time Grammy Award nominee last month launched her latest album "Love Letters", perhaps her most personal album till date. "Love Letters" is also Shankar's first exclusively lyrics-oriented album. She has, in another first, lent her voice to "Lovable" along with Afro-French Cuban musical duo Ibeyi.

The album, with six tracks including "Those Words", has notes of tremendous loss and heartbreak, possibly brought into her work by personal health issues and her divorce from British director Joe Wright last year after a marriage of nine years.

"These were difficult times, which pushed me into some very vulnerable places. I've written from a personal place before, but this time there was something particularly tender about the process. It was a creative challenge to be brave enough to allow the music to remain as raw as it began," the musician added.

For "Those Words", Shankar worked with cellist and composer Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Indian singer Shilpa Rao and dancers Guro Nagelhus Schia and Vebjorn Sundby.



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