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  Entertainment   Music  28 Nov 2016  When life influences art

When life influences art

Published : Nov 28, 2016, 12:08 am IST
Updated : Nov 28, 2016, 6:32 am IST

Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar speaks about her upcoming country tour, fusing electronica with the tuneful sitar.

Anoushka Shankar. (Photo: Jamie-James Medina/DG)
 Anoushka Shankar. (Photo: Jamie-James Medina/DG)

Emotions dictate her compositions and tunes. Five time Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar has always sought inspiration from those around her to make music. This time around, it was the heart-wrenching image of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian infant who was washed ashore on a Turkish beach, that inspired her latest album — Land of Gold that embraces electronica and cross-genre collaborations. Offering an uplifting message of hope for dark times, the album is inspired by images of people fleeing civil war, oppression, poverty and unbearable hardship. Ahead of her city tour, for Land of Gold that was releaed early in summer on Deutsche Grammophon, Anoushka gives us an insight into her music and more. Excerpts of the interview:

Your father introduced Indian classical music to the world. Do you see yourself carrying forward that legacy?
I don’t believe one can think about things like legacies and the future and still be enough in the moment to make good art. The art one creates has to be very much in the present and about one’s self-expression. If that reaches people and has a lasting impact, that’s something to be very proud of.

What inspires your music?
Strong emotions compel me to write music. In the case of Land of Gold, I was watching the refugee crisis unfold and started writing music in response to the trauma I was seeing millions of people going through. It became an album about universal human emotions and connection.

Is Land of Gold any different than your last album Home? If so, how?
It’s similar to past albums, and different too. Home was a classical album, and Land of Gold is again “crossover” like the last few records before that. I really focused on taking the sitar out of its comfort zone. The album isn’t exotic in a way that’s often associated with the sitar. My instrument gets to be wild and be angry along with being loving and tender. Land of Gold like my other albums is my response to life. Sometimes I draw from very personal experiences, and sometimes from my emotional response to events in the world around me, but it’s always about emotions.

Your music this time brings together a host of genres. What’s the outcome like?
Land of Gold draws from Indian music, electronica, jazz, hip-hop and minimalism. I have been listening to electronica since I was 14 years old, but the reason I kept away from it in the last decade is because I found it frustrating to play it live 10 years ago with the way technology limited live musicians at the time. Today, the technology has changed and for live musicians, as opposed to DJ’s, we can play very freely whilst enjoying the full spectrum of electronic sounds.

What’s your advice for those who want to learn the sitar?
Be true to yourself, and trust the process of what is unfolding even when the results or answers don’t seem to be on the horizon.

Your husband, Joe, is an artist as well — do you two connect over your art forms and discuss work at home?  
Our art forms are a big part of who we each are, and therefore are a big part of our shared life. We support each other very much by being involved and giving feedback right from the inception stages through to completion of each project.  Joe has always been very engaged with my music. I read all the scripts he’s considering and watch the entire shooting and editing process. It’s very inspiring and interesting for us both.

Anoushka will be playing on December 3 at Shanmukhananda Hall, Comrade Harbanslal Marg, Sion,
Tickets available on

Tags: art, music, anoushka shankar, land of gold