Over twenty years, Anoushka Shankar
has grown into one of the world's leading sitarists. She has long been omnivorous in her musical tastes and this has resulted in a journey without borders. A daughter and student of the late Ravi Shankar
, who almost single handedly introduced Indian music to Western musicians and audiences, she has nonetheless pursued her own muse, one which has been as adventurous and multi-faceted as that of her father. Some of her achievements are compiled in the retrospective compilation Reflections
, which spans the 1990s to the present.
Most artists use compilations to showcase only their best moments, but Shankar's is much more than a predictable collection of greatest hits. The selections reveal where she came fromand where she is at the moment, artistically, and also what she stands for as an activist and parent. It further offers hints of where her muse might take her in the future. The album opens with a collaboration with her sister Norah Jones
, one of the several tributes to their father including the second duet, "Traces of You." Another tribute is the joint performance of father and daughter on Ravi Shankar's "Pancham Se Gara." Nina Simone
said that the role of the artist is to reflect the times they live in. Anoushaka Shankar's response to the misfortunes of refugees in recent times was the album Land of Gold
(Deutsche Grammophon, 2016). The title was intended as a metaphor for the promised land to where people flee in order to find peace, solace and economic stability. There are three selections from this fantastic record.
Overall, there's plenty of tradition here but it's craftily enmeshed in the unpredictable ebb and flow of Shankar's imaginative arrangements. Sometimes she takes her music far beyond all conventional notions of genre or style. A key word throughout is "collaboration." Shankar works with other artists, from Norah Jones and Ravi Shankar to actress Vanesa Redgrave, Pedro Ricardo Mino, Javier Limon, who produced Traveller
(Deutsche Grammophon, 2013), Nitin Sawhney, who produced Traces of You
(Deutsche Grammophon, 2015), Karsh Kali, who produced and collaborated on Breathing Under Water
(Manhattan, 2007), and others. Each has contributed to Shankar's rainbow-hued musical world and has contributed to the merging of different sounds and instruments from far-flung locations and traditions, perhaps most spectacularly in the marriage of the sounds of India and Andalusian flamenco.
Anoushka Shankar is admirable for refusing to sit still. She is one of our most mesmerizing live performers and this studio-based compilation would have been even more rewarding had it included some live recordings. But Reflection
is a warm, poignant and immersive set from an artist who constantly pushes the envelope.