When Anoushka Shankar graduated from an American high school – where she had been an honor student and homecoming queen – she faced a quandary: Would she follow her friends to college or continue to pursue her career as a performing musician, which began when she was still a child?
At age 13, she debuted with Zakir Hussain at her father’s 75th birthday celebration in New Delhi. She was already touring with her father, one of the most imminent musicians in the world, Ravi Shankar. She decided to put her education on hold and “give a year to music.” She never looked back.
Like her famous father, Anoushka Shankar is known for her sitar-driven Indian music as well as collaborating wide variety of world musicians from various genres and traditions. She is on tour to celebrate her newest album, “Reflections,” a compilation of tracks from albums she has recorded over her 20-year career. Included are collaborations with her sister, jazz artist Norah Jones, Nitin Sawhney, Vanessa Redgrave,
Karsh Kale and Alev Lenz. Her album addresses the current strife in the world and the need for music “to express how even within chaos, one can find beauty when in connection with another human being.”
Shankar says she has never had an experience with another musician like she did with her father, who was also her teacher. She says they achieved a symbiosis and telepathy on stage. She talks about her work with her sister Norah Jones as heartfelt and sweet. She says Mani Delago, an Austrian hang player (a hang is a percussive vessel) is one of her most esteemed collaborators. She has also worked with flamenco musicians and recorded duets with Western classical musicians such as Joshua Bell and Jean-Pierre Rampal.
Shankar writes and arranges much of the non-classical music she performs and records. She says that “the process of demystifying ideas comes naturally – we have to show up. Creativity is more about discipline than magic.” She is committed to bringing her creative work to younger audiences, and does this by selecting youth-friendly venues for some of her concerts. She is also committed to working to make the world safer for women and has lent her support to the One Billion Rising movement.
Her concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, at The Rialto Center for the Arts in Downtown will feature songs from her new album as well as traditional Indian ragas.
Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist, poet and musician.