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Playing footsie with Anoushka Shankar

Sunday MiD DAY speaks to the sitar player about growing up with Pandit Ravi Shankar, collaborating with Flamenco dancers and singing for her baby while making her new album, Traveller

What was it like growing up in the Shankar household?
I began playing the sitar at the age of eight and would practise for about four to eight hours at the time. But it was always something that was dealt with casually in my house. There was never any pressure to take it up. At the same time it was to be taken seriously and you couldn't skip practice sessions. In a lot of ways, the sitar became my voice. I'm most comfortable expressing myself through music.



Growing up, you shuttled between New Delhi, London and finally US. Was there any confusion in terms of finding your identity?

There is always a search for belonging and it's hard to separate who you are from where you come from. Especially when you are a teenager it can be quite confusing, but when you break it down, I think you discover yourself without the boundaries of a place. I was always connected to my roots through music, but I got a mix of a lot of cultures.

You packed in a lot in this year with a new album, while you had a baby on the way. Did pregnancy play a part in your music?
The final recordings happened when I was eight months pregnant, so it was very much a part of the process. I think being a mother has made me more comfortable with my emotions and that comes across in my music. Some of the songs are a tune to my baby and I can't imagine making this album the way it came out without that. It simply made the experience richer.

Your new album infuses Spanish and Indian classical music. Tell us about the collaborations on this album.
I always reacted to Flamenco since a young age, so at one level it was purely because of a primal love for the music, but this album is also about the journey from Indian to Spain. It traces the similarities between flamenco and Indian classical music. The album has many guest artists and we recorded in California, London, Madrid and many cities in India and that's been the best part.

I talked to a lot of artistes who would be interested in a crossover and worked with my producer Javier Lim n, who was able to bring in several artistes like Flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela, flamenco cantaor Duquende, singer Concha Buika and percussionist Pirana.

You have recorded a Bharatnatyam dancer's feet for one of the tracks on this album. Is this something you were experimenting with?
I had a solo sitar piece in mind when Javier suggested we have Farruco come in and record. It had slipped my mind but in Flamenco it's quite popular to record the feet of the dancer. So I got Mythili Prakash, a Bharatanatyam dancer who I had in mind to also come in and we recorded her feet. I'm not sure if that's ever been done before but it was a great experience and added a very interesting rhythm to the track.

Vh1 Handpicked will present Anoushka Traveller in Mumbai on January 13.
She will perform at the St Andrews Auditorium in Bandra on January 13 at 7 pm.

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