Anoushka Shankar Sitar Hero in a Land of Gold

Anoushka Shankar Sitar Hero in a Land of Gold

Photo by Jamie-James Medina

Anoushka Shankar will be performing on July 19th at Millennium Park with Hollie Cook and the show will start at 6:30pm. For more information, please visit: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/mp_calendar.html

Anoushka Shankar is a familiar name to anyone with an affinity for the world music scene. She is a sitar virtuoso and a prolific composer. She writes music that is spiritual, dynamic and deeply rooted in the Indian Classical music tradition. Anoushka studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut as a classical sitarist at the age of thirteen. Since then, Shankar has gone on to work with artists like Sting, M.I.A., Herbie Hancock, Pepe Habichuela, Karsh Kale, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Joshua Bell and earned six Grammy nominations.

Shankar also uses her musical platform for social activism. She has spoken out against sexual violence, human trafficking, gender inequality, and the refugee crisis for over a decade. Her current tour, which stops at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion on July 19th, brings Anoushka back to the United States for a special series of live performances done to protest the displacement of refugees fleeing conflict areas across the globe. The concerts will present music from her latest Grammy Award-nominated album, Land of Gold, a song cycle that reflects her personal response to the trauma facing refugees in search of sanctuary. The shows will also raise funds for the humanitarian relief efforts led by the nonprofit organization Help Refugees (https://helprefugees.org).

“When I started making the record, it was the summer of 2015. I live in London and, being in Europe, that was the summer that the refugee crises really hit a new level at the top of the news cycle,” Shankar says, “And so, every day, I was watching more and more stories unfold of humans trying to escape situations of war and extreme poverty and being met often by closed borders and being treated in an incredibly inhumane way. Because I was in the studio at that time making music, my feelings about that started coming out in the songs we were writing. A few songs in, it sort of felt like the whole album was going to be a conceptual response to the refugee crisis and to the stories of humanity trying to reach, as individuals and collectively, a place of safety and connectedness, which is what the idea of the phrase “land of gold” was to me.”

Land of Gold ended up being an incredibly compelling and collaborative journey through these issues, in some ways more so than Shankar’s previous recordings, sessions where she wrote all the material and described herself as a “control freak.” This time out, she’d just had her second son and, as a result, looked to her friends for assistance. “For the first time, I asked friends to bring me ideas,” she says, “I sort of let people in a bit more this time, in particular Manu Delago, who is the co-writer on all of these and a band member. He came to me with a bunch of initial ideas.”

Those writing sessions yielded 11 new compositions that became even more collaborative in the recording studio. Some of the world’s most visible female artists and activists appear on Land of Gold, including global hip-hop star M.I.A. (“Jump In, Cross the Line”) and actress Vanessa Redgrave (reading a Pavana Reddy poem on “Remain the Sea”). German singer Alev Lenz turns in an evocative vocal on the title track, and the inspirational Girls for Equality children’s choir closes out the album on “Reunion.” Other guests include jazz double bassist Larry Grenadier, renowned dancer Akram Khan, cellist Caroline Dale, and electronic producer Matt Robertson. The record is a mix of classical minimalism, jazz, electronica, and Indian classical styles done with an “East meets West” mindset that gives it a wide-ranging appeal.

Still, emotion is what drives this set, not chops, charts, or technicality. “I was horrified by the intense contrast between my ability to provide for my children, and others who desperately wanted to provide the same security for their own children but were unable to do so due to unimaginable hardships,” says Anoushka, continuing “Although I felt overwhelmed with a sense of powerlessness to alleviate the suffering of others, I was painfully aware that, whilst I was physically remote from their harrowing experience, it was impossible for me to deny my emotional connection as a human being.”

She goes on to say that “Since 2015, very little has changed, but fortunately there are excellent organizations like Help Refugees working to minimize the extensive suffering occurring as a result of the global refugee crisis. This summer, there will be bucket collections at my concerts in aid of this fantastic charity, thanks to whom more than 722,500 people have received essential aid. It would mean the world to me if people at the shows could donate anything they are able to this cause.” Shankar feels that this is the best and most immediate way for her fans around the world to help this cause and these people.

Like many people these days, Anoushka Shankar doesn’t know if the world can be saved but feels compelled to try. “I’m not a mind reader. I can’t read the future, so we might be going to Hell in a handbasket,” she states “but if all of us were to collectively give up, I know we would be lost. The point is to simply try with what we each have available and to hope for the best. That shred of hope is what propels us to take action.”

Anoushka Shankar will be performing on July 19th at Millennium Park with Hollie Cook and the show will start at 6:30pm. For more information, please visit: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/mp_calendar.html


Biography: Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar is a singular figure in the Indian classical and progressive world music scenes. Her dynamic and spiritual musicality has garnered several prestigious accolades, including six Grammy® Award nominations, recognition as the youngest – and first female – recipient of a British House of Commons Shield, credit as an Asian Hero by TIME Magazine, and a Songlines Best Artist Award. Most recently, she became one of the first five female composers to have been added to the UK A-level music syllabus.

Deeply rooted in the Indian Classical music tradition, Anoushka studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut as a classical sitarist at the age of thirteen. By the age of 20, she had made three classical recordings for EMI/Angel and received her first Grammy® nomination, thereby becoming the first Indian female and youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category. In 2005, Anoushka released her self-produced breakthrough album Rise, which earned her a second Grammy® nomination. Following this nomination Anoushka became the first Indian artist to perform at the Grammy® Awards.

As an international solo artist, Anoushka has performed in a range of distinguished venues such as Carnegie Hall, Barbican Centre, Sydney Opera House, Vienna Konzerthaus, Salle Pleyel, Royal Festival Hall, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Palais des Beaux-Arts and the KKL Luzern. Her event appearances include the Verbier Festival, the Prague Spring Festival, Boom Festival and the London Proms. Anoushka has championed her father’s four sitar Concertos with the world’s leading orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, MDR Sinfonieorchester, Lucerne Symphony and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, under the leadership of esteemed conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Kristjan Järvi and Jakob Hrusa.

In 2011 Anoushka signed to Deutsche Grammophon, heralding a fertile creative period which was rewarded with three further consecutive Grammy® nominations. Traveller (produced by Javier Limon), was a critically-hailed exploration of Indian Classical music and Spanish flamenco. This was followed by Traces of You (produced by Nitin Sawhney and featuring Anoushka’s half-sister Norah Jones on vocals), and Home, a purely Indian Classical album where she returned to the Ragas her father had taught her. Through her bold and collaborative approach as a composer, Anoushka has encouraged cross-cultural dialogue whilst demonstrating the versatility of the sitar across musical genres. As a result, Anoushka has created a vital body of work with a prominent roster of artists such as Sting, M.I.A, Herbie Hancock, Pepe Habichuela, Karsh Kale, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Joshua Bell.

Recent highlights include curating a Tagore Festival at The Globe Theatre in London, dedicated to the legendary Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore, and a large-scale Zeitinsel at Dortmund Konzerthaus where she was given a carte-blanche to present four full-length programmes reflecting different aspects of her artistic life.

Besides her career as a composer and performer, Anoushka has authored the book Bapi: The Love of My Life, a biographical portrait of her father, and been a regular columnist for New Delhi’s First City magazine and the Hindustan Times.

Anoushka’s artistic output increasingly seeks to reflect her impassioned support of women’s rights and social justice. In 2011, in response to the horrific gang-rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi, Shankar threw her weight behind the campaign One Billion Rising on Change.org. Following this, she was invited to take part in a special panel on violence against women at the annual Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi (2013). Other recent projects include hosting a radio show about gender quality to promote the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, coordinating a call-to-action to the UK government in response to the current European refugee crisis, which was signed by more than 100 leading British cultural figures and published in the Guardian newspaper in September 2015. In 2016 she leant her voice to a feature-length film documentary, Stolen Innocence, about India’s untold story of the world’s fastest growing criminal activity of human trafficking.

Her latest album on Deutsch Grammophon, Land of Gold, is her personal response to the humanitarian trauma of displaced people fleeing conflict and poverty. The release in spring 2016 was followed by tours of North America, India and Europe including performances at wide-ranging venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, Dubai Opera House and at live music festivals including Glastonbury (West Holts), WOMAD and Rudolstadt. Highlights of the current season include performances of Concerto No 2 with the Berlin Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic Orchestras.

Today, from her home in London where she lives with her husband and two sons, Anoushka’s career reflects her aim to constantly learn and grow as an artist. Across continents and demographics, people respond to what she calls the “honesty” in her music, which is integral to her work both in the classical and modern musical spheres. As Nitin Sawhney wrote, “no one embodies the spirit of innovation and experimentation more evidently than Anoushka Shankar.”


Links:

Official: http://www.anoushkashankar.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnoushkaShankar
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/shankaranoushka

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