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Interviews

Anoushka Shankar: A Celebration of Joy

By Published: April 24, 2012
AAJ: You have said that you were very excited to do "Dancing in Madness" and that you had an Indian dancer in mind based upon on all of the rhythmic aspects that you wrote for this music. Can you explain how the ideas developed and what has influenced you culturally and artistically to create your own individual creative rhythmic feel and ideas? Can those various ideas be explained in both their emotional and cerebral creative aspects and elements?



AS: Musically I tend to gravitate towards two very different feels, one being incredibly gentle, romantic and lyrical and the other being really hard and full on. Sometimes within the classical form people can be surprised by that more full on side but I find it very exciting to explore how to bring that full, sometimes dark, energy into classical instrumentation. "Dancing in Madness" was one of those pieces where I really wanted to go into that darker feeling but also it was very much an intricate rhythmic piece where I was thinking of Indian dance patterns with an Indian dancer friend of mine, Mythili Prakash, with whom I had worked recently. When I learned that in Flamenco it is very common to record a dancers footwork, as part of a piece of music, I became very excited to turn the piece into a sonic duet between two dancers, as recording dancers feet for musical pieces is not commonly done in Indian.

AAJ: Your father is probably more responsible for educating American audiences about Indian classical music more so than any other musician from India. Now in some ways, you are taking it another step further by educating or enhancing awareness about the music and musicians from other societies and cultures. This was something that was very important to your father. Can you explain how he influenced your approach to expanding upon various musical universes and your plans for the future to continue this on?

AS: From a young age I spent a lot of time travelling, both on tour and living in different places, so that Global sense and connection is something I grew up with. This, together with my father teaching me to keep an open mind and open ear with regards to other musical styles and traditions, meant that it seemed only natural to explore and experiment outside of my tradition. My father was the first Indian classical artist to cross over into the west; sharing his music and engaging with Indian and Western audiences. Since then he worked with musicians from so many musical worlds, whilst still being primarily an Indian classical composer and musician and this is something that I have always been inspired by.

AAJ: The title, Traveller, seems to apply to all facets of your life and seems to describe your artistic and musical development as it unfolds over time. Additionally, most people in the west are not very familiar with the tremendous depth, thought and spirituality behind Indian music. Does this travel seem like an opportunity for you to educate others or is it more of a sense of responsibility? Can you describe this journey and what it means to you?

AS: Making music is always something that can be called a spiritual experience. People have different definitions of the word spiritual and those definitions then alienate us from understanding each other. At least for me, anything that brings you into your own deepest core or puts you in touch with your creative side is something that can be called spiritual. For me as a musician, music is definitely where I am most able to experience that feeling but it also comes in yoga or even cooking. In India there is a sense of all of these things being connected by a spiritual thread and therefore music and other art forms are revered on par with more religious deities. That approach to music can sometimes be quite foreign for people from other cultures but even though it may be explained differently, they may be experiencing this without realizing. I think it is a feeling that people connect to without knowing about it.

Anouska Shankar-Karsh Kale Breathing Under WaterAAJ: You have called your composition, "Inside Me," a real celebration of being pregnant. A celebration of a life force inside of you. Was there a spiritual element that grew from the more technical aspects of the music and is it something you can explain? AS: It was an amazing and unique experience, having a place to express all that I was feeling at the time and as my pregnancy progressed, it was exciting to feel my baby reacting to the music I was making.

AAJ: You have said that you are most proud of the composition; "Boy Meets Girl" because you felt the musicians hit something very special with that song. That both traditions were represented and respected, Flamenco and an older form of Indian Raga. Can you explain why that is so important to you? What would you like the listeners to understand?


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