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Anoushka Shankar: Hitting the right notes

The sitarist has constantly looked to expand the boundaries of Indian classical music. Her latest album, Home, dedicated to her father Pt Ravi Shankar, has earned Anoushka her fifth Grammy nomination. Here, she tells ForbesLife India about influences that mould her creative process

Angad Singh Thakur
Published: Feb 23, 2016 06:48:51 AM IST
Updated: Feb 22, 2016 12:57:52 PM IST
Anoushka Shankar: Hitting the right notes
Image: Chaitanya Dinesh Surpur

1. A Human Connect
My family is a big influence on my music. So are other artists, my friends, and the world at large. It is about relationships, fundamentally. It is about what we are and what we feel. Home was a very personal record. It was about my dad, and paying tribute to him and our relationship. But the other upcoming record, Land of Gold, is more about the refugee crisis and displacement and injustice. It’s about human beings on a much bigger scale, but it still connects to the personal element within that.

2. Home
I grew up across continents so there was always a home-everywhere kind of feeling. But in the last few years, I’ve built a place that feels like home, in the sense that I had always imagined it. Home, the name of my album, also stems from the fact that we have recently built a home studio for me. It feels like for the first time in my life, I have, to quote Virginia Woolf, “A room of my own”... where I can shut myself off, take risks and try things.

3. Exploring
It’s almost a personal search manifested in music. Searching for home and identity ends up becoming something in my music. I’m always curious to see how my instrument reacts to a new environment or how I can write with a different type of musician, who comes from a different world than I do. I think it’s a wonderful way to keep our music evolving and growing.

4. Creative Spaces

A good friend of my husband has a place in Tuscany, Italy. We try and go there at least once a year. In the last few years, it has become a place that is really inspiring to me. She has a beautiful farmhouse which has a tower room at the top that she lets me use as a music room when I’m there. It has wonderful views of the farm in every direction. It’s a really beautiful room to play in.

5 . Rituals
I can be a bit OCD about rituals actually. I get attached to a certain sequence of events before a performance.  If for any reason the sequence gets thrown off, I can struggle to stay calm. It’s a natural routine that starts with a sound check and then getting ready for the show, getting dressed, putting on make up and just being alone for a while. Then I maybe have dinner with the band, have a laugh. Finally, I stretch a bit and get ready to go on stage. That whole process is a bit like the Pavlovian dog [laughs], but it prepares me to get on stage.

(This story appears in the Jan-Feb 2016 issue of ForbesLife India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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