Anoushka Shankar

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A virtuosic performer and composer with an innovative spirit, Anoushka Shankar followed in the footsteps of her late father, Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar, mastering the same instrument and blazing her own artistic path that encompasses both Indian classical traditions and progressive world music. Establishing herself as a formidable talent in her teenage years, she recorded a series of classically oriented albums for Angel Records in the early 2000s before branching out into more experimental territory with her Grammy-nominated 2005 release Rise. Following that album, Shankar’s output tended to focus on her own compositions and collaborations with a variety of artists in genres ranging from pop and jazz to electronic and flamenco. Signing with Deutsche Grammophon in the 2010s, she continued to explore progressive musical concepts with 2011′s standout Traveller, while also paying homage to her classical roots with 2013′s Traces of You, on which she and her half-sister — pop and jazz singer Norah Jones — honored their recently deceased father. Shankar issued Home in 2015, performing two traditional ragas composed by her father. A year later, she returned to cross-genre pop and electronics on Land of Gold. In 2020, she collaborated with composer Alex Heffes and singer Kavita Seth on the soundtrack for Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy. She also issued the Love Letters EP, followed by Love Letters PS a year later.
Anoushka Shankar was born in England and spent much of her youth living between London and Delhi, later relocating to California, where she attended high school. From the age of nine, she began studying music under her father, making her performing debut on the sitar four years later at his 75th birthday celebration in Delhi. Accompanying her father as he toured the world, Anoushka racked up a wealth of experiences, appearing at Carnegie Hall while still in her teens, performing at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD festival, and recording with George Harrison. She was the youngest and only female recipient of the House of Commons Shield, awarded by British Parliament “in recognition of her artistry and musicianship — as a preeminent musician of the Asian Arts.”
Having earned a contract with EMI’s Angel Records label, Shankar made her solo debut with 1998′s Anoushka, released when she was still just 17 years old. Anourag followed two years later, featuring six ragas adapted by her father. The young prodigy added another triumph to her already impressive career in 2001 with her Live at Carnegie Hall album, becoming the youngest artist and first woman to be nominated for Best World Music Album at the Grammys. Departing from the traditional Indian classical style that marked her earlier releases, 2005′s Rise included elements of pop, jazz, and various ethnic fusions. The self-produced record featured all-original material and received another Grammy nomination. Shankar’s trend toward fusion continued with 2007′s Breathing Under Water, a collaborative album with British producer and musician Karsh Kale that also featured appearances from both her father and half-sister, Sting, and Indian slide guitar legend V.M. Bhatt.
Traveller, which explored the similarities and differences between classical Indian music and Spanish flamenco, appeared in 2011 and marked her debut for the Deutsche Grammophon label. Ravi Shankar: Symphony, the only symphony Ravi Shankar composed, was recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra directed by David Murphy and released in 2012, featuring Anoushka as the featured solo sitarist. In the fall of 2013, just a few months after her father’s death, she released the deeply personal Traces of You, a collection of original material that earned yet another Grammy nomination and was her first release to top Billboard’s World Music chart. A home-recorded collection of more straightforward Indian ragas composed by her father was titled Home and released in 2015. The following year, Shankar delivered Land of Gold, a passionate response to viewing refugees fleeing war, oppression, and hunger around the world. Produced by her then-husband, director Joe Wright, Land of Gold featured contributions from electronic producer Matt Robertson, singer/rapper M.I.A., cellist Caroline Dale, and actor/activist Vanessa Redgrave, among others.
In 2019, Shankar, composer Alex Heffes, and singer Kavita Seth were all recruited by director Mira Nair to score and soundtrack her television adaptation of Vikram Seth’s epic novel A Suitable Boy. Later that year, in the aftermath of her divorce from Wright, Shankar released the song cycle Love Letters about her process for Mercury KX. She expanded the concept in 2021, first with the issue of the single “Sister Susannah” on International Women’s Day, and then with the seven-track Love Letters PS, which featured contributions from a cast of female collaborators including Jones, singer/songwriter Alev Lenz, singer/cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, vocalist Shilpa Rao, poet Nikita Gill, and musical and technical assistance from mixing engineer Heba Kadry, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Sandunes. ~ Jason Ankeny & Thom Jurek