Anoushka Shankar: My father had childlike humour

Updated: Feb 03, 2020, 08:21 IST | Sonia Lulla | Mumbai

Anoushka Shankar on marking the centenary celebration of her father Pandit Ravi Shankar with a multi-country tour

Anoushka Shankar. Pics/AFP, Instagram
Anoushka Shankar. Pics/AFP, Instagram

An upcoming tour that includes a two-show leg in India will serve two purposes for Anoushka Shankar. Primarily, the six-time Grammy-nominated sitar player and composer will mark her late father Pandit Ravi Shankar's 100th birth anniversary with a series of shows featuring artistes like Beatles member George Harrison's son, Dhani, Philip Glass, and Nitin Sawhney. It will also be a homecoming of sorts for her as she returns to India after two years to promote her EP, Love Letters. In an interview with mid-day, she explains why the tour is special.

What do you have in mind for the centenary celebration of your father's birth anniversary? Will you revive his compositions, or simply revisit them?

The [developments] started taking shape last year, and I'm involved in the music-planning process. It is a joy to delve into my father's past compositions to choose material for the shows. The [compositions] are definitely getting new arrangements. The shows [in London, America and India] will feature a core ensemble [comprising] many of my father's greatest disciples. I'll keep each of them in mind as I adjust the pieces. Also, each show will have various special guests, and I will work with them on their performances. The most exciting part is that my sister Norah Jones and I will play together live onstage for the first time.

What are some of the fondest memories you have of your father, both, as a parent and a teacher?

Pt Ravi ShankarPt Ravi Shankar

He was exquisitely beautiful; a singular teacher and one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived. As a father, I remember him as sweet, loving and joyous, and someone with childlike humour.

What made you choose to return to India after two years for your two-city tour?

I'll be back at the end of the year for the centenary celebrations. On this trip, I'll focus on playing music from my new EP, Love Letters. It is personal and raw, and I hope it connects with those who come to the show. I'm excited to come back to Mumbai and Delhi, though I'm sad that I will miss some other cities I love.

This time, I have the luxury of having wonderful singers with me, alongside several instrumentalists. It will be a vocal-heavy set. We will play new material, and some of my favourite old songs. It's a personal set which has moments of [sorrow] too. But, eventually, it is empowering.

What about the country's musical sensibilities have changed over the years?

I realised that few women are involved in all aspects of music-making, and that I have rarely worked with female engineers. That became something that I began considering — how many women could I bring into [my] projects, across the board? And it has been lovely to take an active part in opening doors, in that sense.

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