Sitar prodigy Anoushka Shankar, daughter of maestro Ravi Shankar, has been enthralling audiences during her debut sell-out Australia concert tour this southern winter.
In a red and black striped lahenga choli, she looked stunning and displayed musical maturity as she performed traditional Indian classical ragas and acoustic versions of her contemporary compositions from her Grammy nominated album Rise and her latest release Breathing Under Water.
Sydney's iconic Opera House Concert hall was packed as the audience, comprising the growing Indian diaspora and Australian fans of Indian classical and East-West fusion music, warmed to the strings of the sitar on a wet and dreary night.
Anoushka's incorporation of Western instruments - piano and cello with the sitar, tabla, flute and tanpura - created a spellbinding harmonious blend of Eastern and Western melody.
The ensemble comprised some of the leading western and eastern musicians featuring Ravichandra Kulur from Bangalore (Indian flutes and vocals), Tanmoy Bose from Kolkatta (tabla and vocals), Nick Able from Britain (tanpura) and Leo Dombecki (acoustic piano) and Barry Phillips (cello) from the US.
The music transcended the realms of Hindustani classical to pan-ethnic world music. As Anoushka said in an interview, "I think my style is tradition evolving. As a person and as an art form, I draw from something ancient and blend it with the modern." Not surprising for someone who has travelled across countries and imbibed from different cultures and genres to create a unique style, her very own.
As her tender fingers glided over the strings, creating haunting music in Solea, a crossover piece of Indian ragas and Spanish Flamenco, and reaching a sensational crescendo in the finale Voice of Moon (Rise), there was loud applause for the riveting music.
Being on her maiden tour Down Under, Anoushka consciously started the concert in a classical vein, "adding textures" in the second half.
As a spokesperson for the Sydney Opera House told IANS, "It was an honour to present Anoushka as part of the Opera House's successful Hemisphere's programme. Anoushka has received standing ovation and great reviews in both Melbourne and Brisbane."
Unfortunately, in Sydney the soulful improvisations by the "Queen of sitar" were compromised by bad acoustics and poor stage lighting, which sometimes distracted from flowing into the mood of the compositions.
"The Indian community and global music fans in all three cities have been wowed with Anoushka's performance and the accompanying musicians. It's hoped very much that we will be able to welcome her back to Australia in the next few years," the spokesperson added.
Anoushka, who is half sister of popular jazz singer Norah Jones, performs at the Auckland Town Hall Friday.