She’s just a breath away. The svelte sitar woman will be in the city to share a flute salad and some more with Jehtro Tull next Saturday and then play with A-list musicians at the Live Earth concert on December 7. At this very minute, she’s in her Delhi home. And so here’s Anoushka Shankar engaged in a jugalbandi with Nikhil Taneja ...
Your father recently completed his farewell tour to Europe with you. Did you get emotionally churned about that?
(Smiles) He is 89, so every time we play together, it’s really special. I’ve learnt so much from him.. my approach and style have evolved from him. I interpret my music in the same way.. so yes, it was a very, very emotional tour.
Do you plan to tour with Norah Jones?
No, not now. (Pauses) But never say never. We are friends and keep giving each other feedback about our songs, like other friends would. We play the piano together when we meet informally. Officially, I don’t know if it will happen soon.
How would you describe Norah Jones’ music?
She has a lot of integrity as an artiste. That I really respect. I believe music has to come from your heart and I admire that ability in her.
So what do you miss most about India?
(Instantly) The food! (Laughs) Indian food is available everywhere but of course, restaurant food is nothing compared to home-cooked food.
You’ve collaborated with some Bollywood artistes — Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan and Salim Merchant — for your last album. Is a more sustained collaboration possible?
Well, there’s no desire for me as such to do ‘mainstream’ music for the heck of it. I don’t really understand why Bollywood is such a big deal. Why aren’t you asking me if a collaboration with French musicians is possible? I only make music that’s natural to me and real to me.. I don’t have Bollywood aspirations.
I ask because Bollywood is very influential. For example, classical music reaches only the metros but Bollywood reaches every corner of India.
Alright, I’ll go with that. I mean, it’s a tricky thing. Classical music will always be niche.. it has never been for the masses. But classical music isn’t a dying art. Some of the younger classical musicians are opting for music videos to get more visibility, which is controversial, but I think it’s helping.
But even the congoscenti know very few established musicians.
These are very difficult questions and I have a lot of opinions on them. In the west, classical music receives a lot of corporate sponsorship. Here, we get sponsorship only when there is a gimmick like ‘fusion’.
You’ve received several Bollywood offers but you haven’t accepted any.
Yeah.. I did like some scripts. I came close to accepting a script by PNC last year. It fell through since I had to tour. I am open to films but my main career is music and the dates are hard to work out.
What kind of roles do you see yourself in?
Surely something that would push me forward creatively and something that I would benefit from doing. Also, it should be something that I could give back to. I would love to be in a film like Water that had a strong role. (Laughs) But I don’t see myself running around trees.. or glaciers.. or snowy mountaintops.
As a global ambassador of India, what does it mean for Live Earth to happen here?
First, the event is very important to highlight the climate issues that affect our country. Second, the scale of the show will establish India as a global platform for such causes.
Will Pandit Ravi Shankar ever be identified as Anoushka Shankar’s father?
Never, I guess. You know, I have a lot of aspirations. I’ve contributed to books, I write columns and do charity work. I’d like to be a good wife and mother. But I don’t know if my father will be ever known through me.
Is being a ‘good wife’ happening any time soon?
(Laughs) I wouldn’t say soon.. but it’s on the cards.