Anoushka Shankar interview: Home is deeper than my earlier records

  • Debarun Borthakur, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2015 11:38 IST

Ace sitarist Anoushka Shankar is excited about her new album, Home. And why wouldn’t she be? It’s been more than a decade since she had a solo classical release and she recorded it in her own newly built studio in East London.

However, unlike some of her earlier releases, this time Shankar has looked back at her training sessions with her father and guru, late Pandit Ravi Shankar and has tried to musically connect to him with Home.

Much has changed since she released Live at Carnegie Hall in 2001, her last classical studio album. Today, Shankar is a household name among world music enthusiasts and classical listeners alike. She is also a mother of two sons (Zubin and Mohan) and after her father’s demise, has the responsibility of carrying on his legacy. Hardly surprising then for the Breathing Under Water (2007) hit-maker to take a sojourn back to her roots.

(Photo courtesy: laura Lewis/Deutshe Grammophon)

Two of Shankar’s previous albums were nominated in the Grammys’ World Music category, so it will be interesting to see if Home can manage a similar feat, especially since it doesn’t deal with experimental world music, but is an out-and-out Indian classical album.

Excerpts from the interview:

It’s been 15 years since Anourag
was released and in these years you have established yourself as a world music exponent. Is Home a much-needed return to your father’s classical training sessions?

Live at Carnegie Hall in 2001 was my last solo classical release, and I’m thrilled to have recorded and released Home after this long gap, during which I’ve focused on making more experimental, cross-genre records. It definitely felt like coming home in a musical sense, almost like speaking my first language again after a long period of travels! You released classical albums early in your career. How different was it to go back to playing classical music after so many years and so many different experiences?

It was very different making a traditional album now compared to when I was a teenager. I’ve grown a lot as an artist in the time that has passed, and learned so much from my experiences with other forms of music, and all of that went into my playing on this album. I would say Home is a lot richer and deeper than my earlier classical records. recorded the album when you were six months pregnant, and you said that unlike traditional sitarists, you sat on a couch to record it. Was that a different experience?

I don’t know about that, but Mohan responded to the music in my womb just like Zubin had, when I was pregnant with him while recording Traveller. Without fail, whenever I played the kharaj [bass] notes, or when Tanmoy Bose [tabla player] played heavily on the lower drum, Mo (Mohan) would kick heavily.

This is the first time you have played classical ragas for an album after your father’s demise. And you have played one of your father’s creations in it. It must have been an emotional recording.

As a disciple of my father’s, I was certain I wanted to include one of his own raga creations on Home, as they are so beautiful; whilst many of his creations are part of the general classical repertoire for all musicians, many more are only played by those of us who learned from him, and therefore need to be played.

Raga Jogeshwari is a beautiful combination of two of my favourite ragas: Jog and Rageshri. I played it many times with my father and it felt wonderful to play it on Home. I titled the piece Guru in his honour.

Tell us about your new studio and the experience of recording Home.

Oh, I can’t say how pleased I am to have my own studio! It’s totally changed the way I work, both on Home and on the next album I’m working on. It’s so freeing to have my own space and to feel comfortable and casual whilst recording. The need arose in recent years as a parent, to be able to work from home more.

However, writing and trying to create whilst surrounded by the noise and chaos of young children is very difficult! Having my own studio at home is a dream, as I have a totally sound-proof room I can escape to when I need to write, and I have an impeccable room to record in. My studio was built with a team of experts to record the sitar at the highest level possible, and I’m very happy with the results.

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From HT Brunch, August 30

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