Sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar culminates a celebration of her remarkable 20-year recording career with a concert at the Town Hall on Sunday May 5th at 7 pm.
The event will cap her 24-city North American Spring Tour, which highlighted the release of Reflections, a 15-track retrospective just released on the Deutsche Grammophon label.
The album, curated by Anoushka, is a testament to her musical curiosity and talent.
Drawing from her albums Land of Gold, Traces of You, Breathing Under Water, and Rise, Reflections includes “Jod, Jhala,” based on a raga created by her late father, master sitarist Ravi Shankar. He also is featured on “Pancham Se Gara,” one of the few studio recordings that captured father and daughter playing together, according to a press release.
The rest of the selections offer a sampling of Anoushka´s range, which can embrace electronic instruments and dance rhythms, veer into pop, explore flamenco, or revisit classical East-West fusion.
“I admire people who push all kinds of boundaries so passionately and with so much skill, and I want that kind of life, and I want that kind of fire,” she told an interviewer in 2007, when asked where she saw herself heading as an artist. “The specifics of what that might be are going to change as I change.”
At the Town Hall, Anoushka will be accompanied by her ensemble, featuring Ojas Adhiya on table (paired hand drums); Pirashanna Thevarajah on mridangam (barrel-shaped hand drum); Ravichandra Kulur, flute; Danny Keane, cello and piano; and Kenji Ota, tanpura (long-necked string instrument).
Remarkably, she has established her name on stages around the world while remaining true to her legacy. After all, her career has not just continued but expanded the globalization of classical Indian music initiated by her father in the 1950s.
“I think the goal of musical dialogue is to open people’s minds, because they take in music in a way that they may not take in a news story,” Anoushka Shankar has said. “If people are exposed to new sounds, they end up gaining a respect for it that affects the whole cultural dialogue. In that sense, collaboration across cultures is extremely important. The other side is a much more personal one, where musicians like me are engaging in various forms of music, making sense of ourselves and the world around us. We live in a multicultural world, and artists are going to reflect that.”
She later expanded on these ideas when discussing her cross-cultural collaborations.
“I think cross-cultural dialogue is something that has hugely impacted the richness of the culture of our world,” she told the British online newspaper The Independent. “It’s a central current in my life, and I can’t imagine not having been able to have access to multiple cultures and being able to draw and learn from them.”
Born in London, Anoushka Shankar spent her childhood between London and Delhi and her teenage years in Los Angeles, California.
“For me, my father was Ravi Shankar before he was my father because I lived in London with my mother and my parents only got married when I was 7 years old,” she once said. “I didn’t become a Shankar until then.” It was then that she started playing sitar, studying with her famously strict and demanding father. She once recalled, “I lived with my teacher and he was my father, and he practiced every day so I practiced every day and we practiced every day together.”
She was 13 when she made her public debut as a classical sitarist in a concert celebrating her father’s 75th birthday; at 15 appeared on her father’s album Chants of India, produced by George Harrison, and two years later she released her self-titled debut album. Since, she has earned six Grammy nominations for Anoushka Shankar: Live At Carnegie Hall (2002); Rise (2005); Traveller (2012); Traces Of You (2014); Home (2015), and Land Of Gold (2016). She has also written a book about her father titled Bapi: The Love of my Life.
Over the years, Shankar’s work has increasingly come to reflect her passionate engagement in women’s rights and social justice. Following the horrific gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in 2012, she threw her weight behind the campaign One Billion Rising on Change.org. Other recent projects include hosting a radio show about gender equality to promote the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and, beginning in 2015, coordinating a call-to-action to the U.K. government in response to the European refugee crisis. She was also the narrator of Stolen Innocence, a documentary film about human sex trafficking which premiered in 2017.
For her Town Hall show, Anoushka will be performing selections from throughout her career, highlighting the just-released retrospective album, Reflections (Deutsche Grammophon), while previewing selections from her unreleased score for the 1928 Indian silent film classic Shiraz.