The unerring sense of calm is palpable when she slides her fingers on the strings of her sitar. Music composer and sitar player Anoushka Shankar serenaded music lovers with Indian classical compositions at The Town Hall in New Jersey on April 5.
This reverential love towards the process of music-making is visible as she performs to the track that is part of her recently-released album, ‘Home,’ a pure Indian classical album which showcases the meditative and virtuosic qualities of the Indian rang.
Dressed in a white lehenga, Shankar looked as pure and divine as the music she played for nearly two hours. Accompanied by classical Indian instruments like the tanpura, tabla, shehnaai and the mridagangam, the six-time Grammy nominated musician demonstrated her command over the sitar, an instrument she learned at a young age from her father.
The fact that the album had won the sitar virtuoso her fifth Grammy nomination not only goes to show her extraordinary prowess, but also makes it clear that the music Pandit Ravi Shankar exposed the world to, rests safely in the hands of his talented daughter Anoushka Shankar.
Shankar, the daughter of sitar master Pandit Ravi Shankar and one of his most dedicated students, performed music and started the evening with Raag Jogeshwari, a melodious and straightforward raag, created by Pandit Ravi Shankar, followed by Anoushka Shankar’s very own yet to release composition “Jannat” based on her father’s Raag Janasammohini.
Post break, the 35-year-old performed an extended “Pancham Se Gara,” the last track and one of the well known pieces from her first album “Anourag”, released in 2000. This piece draws its substance from the famous Gara raga that was widely used in many classical indian pieces.
Constantly interacting with her fellow musicians and flashing her signature smile, Shankar kept the tempo up, as each musician performed a solo piece in the last act, followed by a tabla and mridamgam jugalbandi which got many in the audience tapping their feet and clapping their hands to the beat of the music.
The context of home means a lot to people these days, especially in today’s political and social scenario, Shankar said, speaking about her album “Home” on which the show was based. You know you always have a home to go back to, and that’s what sometimes makes you go away from it, she said, referring to her musical experiments as well as her classical background which she keeps coming back to. “I tried to stay connected with my roots while trying to grow into new music,” she said. “I hadn’t made a classical record in a while, so I felt a deep desire to do that but I knew I’d continue to explore and experiment.”
Shankar was accompanied by Ojas Adhiya on tabla, Pirashanna Thevarajah on mridangam, Sanjeev Shankar on shehnaai, Ravichandra Kulur on the flute and Harsha Vishwanathan and Kenjo Ota on the tanpura.
At 35, Anoushka Shankar has become a successful musician in her own right. She has been playing the sitar from childhood and has her own style which has developed into a musical program encompassing the classical Indian traditions of the instrument but with clear and innovative adaptations creating a very distinctive offering.
Shankar has been recognized as the youngest and first female recipient of a British House of Commons Shield and named an “Asian Hero” by Time magazine. She resides in London with her husband playwright Joe Wright and their two sons Zubin Shankar Wright, 5, and Mohan Shankar Wright, 2.
“I have always tried to approach music from a personal level as much as possible. I don’t believe that you can make music from a form of pressure. From the spirit point of view, music has to come from the heart and only because you are passionate about it. If I stay connected to the fact that I play music because I love it… everything else falls in place,” the young prodigy says.