How to dive into Anoushka Shankar’s genre-defying music
A beginner's guide
You obviously know of Anoushka Shankar, the musical accomplishments of her father the late Pandit Ravi Shankar and half-sister Norah Jones, and maybe even that she was the first Indian to present an award at the Grammys. But it’s possible you’ve entirely missed her music. The sitar player and composer released her debut album Anoushka when she was only 18, and has since mined the versatility of her instrument through collaborations with artists like Karsh Kale (Breathing Under Water, 2007) and offbeat mash-ups (she married Indian classical and Spanish Flamenco music in Traveller, 2012). With five Grammy nominations and a sold-out India tour last December, Shankar isn’t worried about the size of her niche. She does, however, hope for an open mind. “[Classical] music is easy to connect with if we can remove the intimidation that comes with its deep heritage,” she says. “It’s natural for a totally new form to feel foreign, whether it’s opera or Indian classical.”
And if you need an easy entry point to Shankar’s work, try one of these:
For a familiar voice, listen to ‘Jump In (Cross the Line)’
Vocals from Brit musician MIA feature on her new album Land Of Gold, recorded as a reaction to the refugee crisis. Shankar feels that it holds her strongest, most lucid moments with the sitar.
For pure classical samples, listen to ‘Guru: Raga Jogeshwari’
Shankar rarely takes a severe approach to Indian classical music, but she made an exception on Home (2015). “I missed my roots. I was in a phase of rediscovering classical performance, and I wanted to make a musical offering to my father.”
For an easy introduction, listen to ‘The Sun Won’t Set’
The sitar leaves ample space for Norah Jones’ sunny voice on the jazz-influenced album Traces Of You (2011), where the sisters collaborated on four songs.
Listen to the first song of her new album, Land Of Gold, here:
Land Of Gold is out this month
Photograph: Laura Lewis/Deutsche Grammophon