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Don’t praise Rahman inaccurately

entertainment Updated: Feb 06, 2010 00:59 IST
Anoushka Shankar
Anoushka Shankar
Hindustan Times
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Congratulations to Rahman for his Grammy win!

I can’t say I was surprised that he won, what with all the accolades that have been coming to him this year. But it was wonderful to see yet another Indian win the Grammy, as there have been so few of us to do so.

Having said that, it’s funny to see how much stock we put in the Grammy and Oscar here in India. Yes, the Grammys are the premier music awards, but they are complete crap in categories outside of Western forms of music, whether classical or popular. So why do we care so much about what is intrinsically an American awards ceremony? Yes, be proud, of course! But sometimes, the media obsession goes overboard.

I hope people don’t read this in the wrong light, but I feel pushed to say what I feel. After all, what’s the point of writing this column if it’s not honest? While everyone should be happy and proud of Rahman’s win, I also hate seeing people praise one person at the cost of another. For example, Rahman has done something unprecedented: he is the first Indian to win two Grammys in one night; he is also the first to win for a soundtrack, and he is one of only a handful of Indians who have won at all. However, some of the praise I’m seeing heaped on him is based on inaccuracies, and I don’t think that my correcting does anything to take away for his great success or genius. I have the greatest love and respect for his music, but still want to make this small correction.

Some people say he’s doing something that has never been done for India. And some people have said it’s even more of an achievement because it’s the first Indian win that’s not for a collaboration. This is untrue. My father won his last Grammy for a classical sitar recording of pure, Indian classical music. It was called Full Circle: Live at Carnegie Hall, and it, not the Slumdog Millionnaire soundtrack, was the first solo CD by an Indian to win the award. Also, of course, it was a classical CD, so that win is even more notable. As most people know, my father is to date the only Indian to have won the Grammy thrice, and won the first years before anyone else was even nominated.

Let me put that in context: my father was out there, creating a platform for Indian music, getting global recognition with Academy Award nominations, Grammy Awards, and all manner of doctorates and accolades, decades before mainstream India was even aware of what Grammys were! His work is the foundation stone upon which everything that came after it, has been laid. And that shouldn’t be forgotten as we celebrate our current glory.

Write to me at anoushka.shankar@hindustantimes.com