Anoushka Shankar - Biography
Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar is a singular figure in the Indian classical and progressive world music scenes. Her dynamic and spiritual musicality has garnered several prestigious accolades, including six Grammy® Award nominations, recognition as the youngest ‒ and first female ‒ recipient of a British House of Commons Shield, credit as an Asian Hero by TIME Magazine, an Eastern Eye Award for Music and a Songlines Best Artist Award.
Deeply rooted in the Indian Classical music tradition, Anoushka studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut as a classical sitarist at the age of thirteen. By the age of 20, she had made three classical recordings for EMI/Angel and received her first Grammy® nomination, thereby becoming the first Indian female and youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category. In 2005, Anoushka released her self-produced breakthrough album Rise, which earned her a second Grammy® nomination. Following this nomination Anoushka became the first Indian artist to perform at the Grammy® Awards.
As an international solo sitarist Anoushka has performed in a range of distinguished venues such as Carnegie Hall, Barbican Centre, Sydney Opera House, Vienna Konzerthaus, Salle Pleyel, Royal Festival Hall, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Palais des Beaux-Arts, KKL Luzern, Millennium Park (Chicago) and San Francisco Opera House. Festival appearances include Edinburgh, Verbier, Prague Spring, Glastonbury, WOMAD, Celebrate Brooklyn and the BBC Proms in London.
Anoushka has championed her father’s four sitar Concertos with the world’s leading orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras under the leadership of esteemed conductors such as Zubin Mehta. Besides performing as a solo sitarist, her compositional work has led to cross-cultural collaborations with artists such as Sting, M.I.A, Herbie Hancock, Pepe Habichuela, Karsh Kale, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Joshua Bell demonstrating the versatility of the sitar across musical genres.
In 2011, she signed to Deutsche Grammophon, heralding a fertile creative period with a series of exploratory CDs: Traveller (produced by Javier Limón) examines the relationship between Indian classical music and Spanish flamenco, Traces of You (produced by Nitin Sawhney and featuring Shankar’s half-sister Norah Jones on vocals), and Home, a purely Indian classical album where she returned to the ragas her father had taught her. Her 2016 album Land of Gold was written in response to the humanitarian trauma of displaced people fleeing conflict and poverty. 2019 saw the release of Reflections, a compilation album mapping the highlights of her 20 year recording career.
Her compositional work was recently celebrated in a “Zeitinsel” at the Dortmund Konzerthaus where she was given carte-blanche to present four full-length programmes reflecting different aspects of her artistic life. She was commissioned by the British Film Institute to write a full-length film score to accompany the BFI National Archive’s restoration of the 1928 silent film Shiraz, specially commissioned to mark the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. Recent highlights also include curating a Tagore Festival at The Globe Theatre in London dedicated to the legendary Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore. She is a featured soloist and co-writer on Arijit’s Singh’s latest feature film and performs on the soundtrack to Stephen Frears’ film Victoria and Abdul.
The 2018/19 season sees a tour of the Netherlands with the Metropole Orkest featuring orchestrations of her works by Jules Buckley, live performances of her film score Shiraz at the Royal Festival Hall and Dublin National Concert Hall and a unique re-imagination of Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass’ Passages at the Paris Philharmonie with her own ensemble alongside the Orchestre de chambre de Paris. She will tour the USA in a new programme reflecting on her journey so far; drawing on classical ragas and experimenting with new ideas in a cross-cultural dialogue that showcases the versatility of the sitar across musical genres.
Anoushka’s artistic output increasingly seeks to reflect her impassioned support of women’s rights and social justice. In response to the horrific gang-rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi in 2011, Shankar threw her weight behind the campaign One Billion Rising on Change.org. To support the campaign, she released a video in which she demanded an end to crime against women and revealed she had been sexually abused for many years as a child. Following this, she was invited to take part in a special panel on violence against women at the annual Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi (2013). Other recent projects include hosting a radio show about gender equality to promote the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and coordinating a call-to-action to the UK government in response to the current European refugee crisis, which was signed by more than 100 leading British cultural figures and published in a full-page advert in the Guardian newspaper in September 2015. She narrated Stolen Innocence a documentary film about human trafficking which premiered in autumn 2017.
Anoushka has authored a biographical portrait of her father Bapi: The Love of My Life, and has been a regular columnist for New Delhi’s First City magazine and the Hindustan Times.