Anoushka Shankar opens up on her relationship with the Grammys

Today, on the eve of the Pandit Ravi Shankar's 2nd death anniversary this year on December 11, Anoushka’s fourth Grammy nomination is indeed more than just recognition – it’s a distinct reminder that the maestro’s legacy has lived on.

music Updated: Dec 11, 2014 18:43 IST
Debarun Borthakur
Debarun Borthakur
Hindustan Times
Anoushka Sharma,sitar

Two years ago on December 11, every Indian music lover must have woken up to an absence. Pandit Ravi Shankar had bid adieu to the world and India had lost the most luminous star in her musical universe. On that very day in 2012, the maestro’s "best disciple", daughter and sitar exponent Anoushka Shankar was busy recording Traces of You - the album that got her a fourth Grammy nomination this year in the World Music category – in London. It was then when she received the news of her father’s demise.

Today, on the eve of the maestro's 2nd death anniversary this year on December 11, Anoushka’s fourth Grammy nomination is indeed more than just recognition – it’s a distinct reminder that the maestro’s legacy has lived on.

The year 2012 was an exceptional year for the father-daughter duo and Indian music. It was the first time in Indian musical history when a father and daughter were pitted against each other for the most coveted award in music’s history – the Grammys. "Immediately before he went in for his final surgery we all received the news that he and I were nominated against each other and that he was also receiving the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. After he passed away a few days later I remember feeling gratitude that he left knowing he was being recognized in such a unique way," says Anoushka.

It was a bittersweet moment for her. "I was still grieving my father and went to Los Angeles to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award on his behalf with my sister Norah (Jones) and also to await the result to the nomination where we were nominated in tandem! At the last second, of course, he won, and I went up again to receive an award on his behalf. It was all very strange even though on paper it was wonderful, because it was so soon after he passed away. Now, two years later, of course some of these things are coming back to my mind, triggered by this wonderful nomination. However it feels very different as this time my nomination doesn't feel bittersweet or tinged with sadness and loss the way it did two years ago. This time I can simply enjoy it myself and celebrate with friends and family," she says.

(Harper Smith/DG)

With four Grammy nominations in her kitty, 33-year-old Anoushka has toured, collaborated and shared the stage with many greats in the field since her childhood. She became the youngest nominee ever in the World Music category of the Grammys at the age of 20. "I became the first woman and the youngest person ever to be nominated in the World Music category. At the time, I remember screaming my head off in shock. It was so overwhelming and unexpected to be nominated. From that point on, every solo album I've released has been nominated, which is an incredible achievement that I'm very honoured and grateful about. Perhaps because of it though, this nomination felt wonderful, but didn't quite send me screaming my head off through the trees like it did when I was twenty!" she avers.

Just like her father, she has experimented with a lot of different genres of music and has always kept her quest for novelty in music alive and kicking. But when asked if there is anything that makes Panditji stand out from all the musicians she came in terms with in terms of musicianship, she says, "The answer is so dramatic that it's impossible to explain. Absolutely no one compares to him. The level of sheer connectedness with his music, which made him lose himself on stage and become completely one with his instrument, was an incredibly spiritual thing to witness. It was beyond performance and showmanship, which of course he had in spades, and was akin to watching someone in deep meditative state, using music as a medium."

However, Grammy and Indian music has a predictable association. At a time when every known musical genre is blooming with fervour and has native Indian proponents in every nook and corner of the country, it’s Indian classical music that always manages to impress the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) in the US (the Grammy Award to be precise).

It has always been the World Music Category where our musical bests achieve recognitions. When asked why they don’t get to enjoy such a privilege at Grammys, Anoushka says, “I think it's a shame that something positive has to constantly turn into something negative. Instead of celebrating that anyone from India has been nominated, this question is instead about why others haven't been nominated! I'd rather focus on my own gratitude for being nominated for the fourth time, which is a rare achievement that hardly any other Indian has managed, and take some time to feel happy and proud about it.” Rightfully so.

Anoushka is scheduled to perform with legendary conductor Zubin Mehta on December 13 in Florence. Not only is the maestro a close friend of the Shankar family, but is also the reason behind Anoushka's first child's name - Zubin. This will be the final concert before Anoushka takes a maternity break to give birth to her second child, due in the same month as the Grammy Awards ceremony. "Since I am due to give birth in London just a couple of weeks after the awards ceremony, unfortunately, I won't be attending the Grammys this time. After the performance with maestro Mehta, at nearly seven months pregnant, I'm going to spend the remaining months of my pregnancy in London working on my next recording and spending time with family,” concludes the Breathing Under Water hitmaker.

First Published: Dec 11, 2014 18:08 IST