Who is Anoushka Shankar?
Anoushka Shankar is a British Indian sitar player, composer and a popular exponent of Indian classical music. She is the daughter of the renowned Indian sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. Her proficiency in the field of music has earned her six Grammy nominations along with awards such as the Songlines Best Artist Award. Born in London, UK, she started learning music at the age of seven from her father whom she also considered her guru. She gave her first public sitar performance at the age of thirteen in Siri Fort, New Delhi, on the occasion of her father's 75th birthday celebrations. She released her first album 'Anoushka' at the age of 17. Her next album was 'Anourag', released after two years. She has released a total of nine albums till date. Throughout her career, she has performed at several distinguished venues such as Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, Vienna Konzerthaus, Royal Festival Hall and the Palais des Beaux-Arts. Apart from music, Anoushka Shankar is also known for her activism. Both she and her father were involved with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). She authored the book 'Bapi: The Love of My Life' which was a biographical portrait of her father Ravi Shankar. She is also a columnist for the ‘First City’ magazine and the ‘Hindustan Times.’
Childhood & Early Life
Anoushka Shankar was born on 9 June 1981 in London, England. Her father was Pandit Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro, and her mother is Sukanya Shankar. Through her father, Anoushka has a half-sister Norah Jones, and had a half-brother Shubhendra Shankar, who passed away in 1992.
She began learning playing the sitar from her father when she was only seven years old. Anoushka did her schooling from San Dieguito High School Academy in California. After finishing her graduation, she decided to pursue a career in music rather than go for higher studies.
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Anoushka Shankar gave her first public performance on 27th February 1995, which was her father’s 75th birthday. The performance took place in Siri Fort, New Delhi. She was accompanied by the renowned tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. From the following year, she also started accompanying her father in his concerts around the world.
In 1998, she released her first album ‘Anoushka’, which was followed by her second album ‘Anourag’, released in 2000. Her third album ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’, which released in 2001, earned her a nomination for the ‘Grammy Award’ for Best World Music Album. She became the youngest person ever to be nominated in this award category.
After having released three albums, she made the decision to establish herself as a solo performer outside of her father’s ensemble. Throughout the next few years, she toured around the world and did around fifty concerts per year. In 2002, she performed at the ‘Concert for George’, which was a posthumous tribute to the famed singer and musician George Harrison.
Anoushka’s fourth album ‘RISE’ was released in 2005. It peaked at the second position on the US World Albums Chart and at 29th position on the US Top Heatseekers Albums. It also got chosen as one of Amazon.com’s Top 100 Editor’s Picks of the year.
In 2007, she collaborated with the Indian American musician Karsh Kale, and released the album ‘Breathing Under Water. It stood at sixth position on the US World Albums and at 40th position on the US Top Heatseekers Albums. It mostly received positive reviews from critics. It included vocals from her half-sister Norah Jones, who is a renowned singer and songwriter. Her father Ravi Shankar also performed a sitar duet with her.
In 2011, she signed with the record label Deutsche Grammophon, which turned out to be a turning point in her career. Her next album ‘Traveller’, which she released the same year, earned her another Grammy Award nomination. It sold more than 52,000 copies worldwide, and was met with positive reviews from critics.
Her seventh album ‘Traces of You’ was released in 2013. It got Anoushka nominated for her fourth ‘Grammy Award’ for ‘Best World Album’. Her next albums ‘Home’ and ‘Land of Gold’ were released in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Anoushka Shankar has also made several guest appearances in recordings of other popular artists, such as American singer and songwriter Lenny Kravitz, and English musician and songwriter Gordon Matthew Thomas Summer, popularly known as Sting.
The album ‘RISE,’ released in 2005, earned Anoushka her first nomination for the Grammy Award. The album included tracks such as ‘Prayer in Passing’, ‘Red Sun’, ‘Mahadeva’ and ‘Voice of the Moon’. It stood at second position on the US World Albums, and at 29th position at the US Top Heatseekers Albums.
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’Traveller’, released in 2011, is another one of Anoushka Shankar’s important works. It included tracks such as ‘Inside Me’, ‘Krishna’, ‘Dancing in Madness’, and ‘Kanya’. It was met with favorable reviews from critics and is considered by some as her best work. It won her a nomination for her third ‘Grammy Award’ for Best World Music Album.
’Traces of You’, her seventh album, was released in 2013. The tracks in the album included ‘Indian Summer’ ‘Metamorphosis’, and ‘Traces of You’. A few tracks also featured vocals by Anoushka’s half-sister Norah Jones. The album peaked at the first position on the US World Albums Chart, and at fourth position on the US Top Heatseekers Albums Chart. It also entered the US Billboard 200, where it stood at the 185th position. It entered the charts in France, Spain, and Switzerland as well. It also earned her a Grammy nomination.
Awards & Achievements
In 1998, Anoushka Shankar was awarded the ‘British House of Common Shield’.
In 2003, she was awarded the title ‘Woman of the Year’ on International Women’s Day. In the 2004 Asian edition of ‘Time’ magazine, she was named as one of 20 Asian Heroes.
She has won a total of six Grammy nominations for her albums ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’, Rise’, ‘Traveller’ ‘Traces of You,’ ‘Home’ and ‘Land of Gold.’
She won the ‘Songlines Music Award’ for her sixth album ‘Traveller’ in 2012.
She won the ‘ACTA Award for Music’ in 2017 for her achievements in Indian classical and progressive world music.
Anoushka Shankar married Joe Wright, a British film director, in 2010. The couple has two sons, Zubin Shankar Wright and Mohan Shankar Wright, born in 2011 and 2015 respectively. Anoushka and Joe Wright divorced in 2018.
She is a strong supporter of animal rights and is involved with PETA. She is the spokesperson for UN’s World Food Program in India as well.
In 2013, in response to the infamous ‘Nirbhaya gang-rape case’ which had taken place in India the previous year, she contributed to the online campaign ‘One Billion Rising’ on Change.org, demanding an end to the crimes committed against women.