#WCW: Sitar Star Anoushka Shankar

Welcome to the first edition of #wcw (aka Woman Crush Wednesday) on my blog for Women’s History Month! I’m featuring  a musical artist every Wednesday who has inspired me and driven me to expand and develop my own art in new ways.

Those of you who know me personally will not be surprised by the first honoree. For the past month or so since discovering her music I have been absolutely immersed in it, listening to little else in favor of catching up on her back catalogue and live performances. So without further ado, please meet Anoushka Shankar!

Sitarist Anoushka Shankar performs at blueFROG Amphitheatre, in Pune on Friday. PTI Photo

You may recognize the family name, and the instrument: she is indeed the daughter of famous sitarist Ravi Shankar, who came to fame in the Western music scene through the influence of the Beatles in the 60s. Anoushka was born in London in 1981 and grew up between London, Delhi, and California. Her half-sister, Norah Jones, is also a musician.

[When I say “Woman Crush Wednesday” I really mean it here: Anoushka and I are the same age, and we both went to high school in San Diego, which means WE TOTALLY COULD HAVE BEEN FRIENDS AHHHH]

She began studying sitar with her father as teacher at age 7, and grew up performing with him on stage. By 17 she had released her first album, Anoushka, and others quickly followed. She became the first woman and the youngest-ever nominee for a Grammy in World Music in 2003.

In her recent career, Anoushka has blazed a trail through modern music, combining jazz, Western classical, flamenco, electronica, and pop with her Indian classical training. She frequently performs her father’s works as well as her own.

Right this minute, you should make some time to listen to her 2013 album, Traveller. 

Combining Indian classical traditions with Spanish flamenco, Traveller is built around the idea that flamenco may have had origins in India.

“In Indian music, we call it ‘spirituality,’ and in Spanish music, it’s ‘passion,'” Shankar says. “It’s really the same thing in both forms, that reaching at the deepest part of the human soul.” -Interview for the LA Times, April 21, 2012

I’ve been most captivated by her newest work, Land of Gold, dedicated to the victims and survivors of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and refugees from other embattled nations. Central to the compositions are women’s voices:

Separate from my desire to have an established core sound at the musical heart of this album, thematically, I wanted to integrate the authority of the female voice, and the drive for women to establish personal autonomy and dignity in situations where the female perspective is often, sometimes forcibly, subdued.  –Land of Gold album notes

Guest artists on the album include hip-hop artist M.I.A and actress & activist Vanessa Redgrave reading the poetry of Pavana Reddy.

Favorite tracks: Crossing the Rubicon, Remain the Sea]

More than anything what has drawn me to Anoushka Shankar in recent weeks is the pure passion and creativity with which she approaches her work. She sits comfortably on stage, brings her in collaborators with smiles and moments of shared groove, and invites the audience to feel the music with her- it is art and love and joy.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

[Shankar is touring the US this month & next: find her at the Big Ears Festival in Tennessee, playing Philip Glass with the Pacific Symphony in California and at Carnegie Hall in NY]

One Reply to “#WCW: Sitar Star Anoushka Shankar”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.