Anoushka Shankar: A Celebration of Joy
AAJ: George Harrison was like an uncle to you and I think your father was his guru and mentor. Did you get the opportunity to discuss music with him and can you describe what you took away from your relationship with him and what was special about him to you personally?
AS: My relationship with him was really unique because my father's relationship with him was so unique. He was my father's student but they were also the best of friends. Because of this he was like an uncle to me but the fact that we were both my father's students made us friends.
Not only did he influence me greatly in terms of music, exposing me to a lot of great music and musicians. He also acted as an adviser to me, in the sense that, coming from a background of such fame and success, he was one of the only people in my family's life that was more cautioning to me. I was so used to people telling me what I should do, so it was great to have someone make me question whether I really should or wanted to do certain things.
It was whilst working together that I saw a side of Uncle George that I really admired. We worked together on my father's album, Chants of India (Angel, 1997), I conducted and he composed. I was exposed to his great work ethic, arrangement skills and the amazing sense of humor he had while working. These were really important things for a fifteen year old to see.
AAJ: Improvisation seems to be one of the most integral aspects of Indian music and also the ingredient that makes the music timeless. I believe that Indian music also has the earliest known history of improvisation. It's just my perception but improvisation seems to be important to you in performance. Can you explain your own personal relationship with improvisation and what it means to you and what is it about music that allows it to touch the deepest part of our soul?
AS: Improvisation is definitely hugely important when playing Indian classical music and having learned from my father, who improvises almost 90% of the time, it is something I love. As you say it is what makes a very ancient music timeless because even though you are playing a form that is centuries old, what you are playing is being created in that moment.
Improvisation is a beautiful feeling because it really brings you to a place where you feel completely lost and at one with the music you are playing. It forces your head to get out of the way and I think that when an artist is in that place that is something that a listener can respond to on an emotional level.
AAJ: Incredibly, the history of Indian music is 4,000 years old. And in a very short period of time, the world has changed tremendously and seems to have lost its vision when it comes to the depth of understanding and appreciation of creativity. Outside of Native American's, the west has never had this as part of its culture. Do you fear for the great history and teachings of Indian music and culture?
AS: I have split feeling and I don't think I know the answer. On one side Indian classical music has existed so long that I don't doubt it will continue. It has always evolved and will not become stagnant, which can lead to things dying out. Yet on the other side, in this incredibly packaged and commercialized world it becomes harder and harder for things outside of mainstream to survive, especially with the rate and pace at which things change these days.
Anoushka Shankar, Traveller (Deutsche Grammophon, 2011)
Anoushka Shankar/Karsh Kale, Breathing Under Water (Manhattan, 2007)
Anoushka Shankar, Rise (Angel, 2005)
Anoushka Shankar, Live at Carnegie Hall (Angel, 2001)
Anoushka Shankar, Anourag (Angel 2000)
Anoushka Shankar, Anoushka (Angel, 1998)
Page 1: Madli-Liis Parts
Page 2: Richard Wayne
Page 3: Harper Smith, Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon