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Cirque Du Soleil
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Patricia Barber
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Andy Timmons Band
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Ralph Towner
Time Line
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Anoushka Shankar

Amos Lee
"Arms Of A Woman"
Amos Lee
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Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Cover Story [Issue # 16 ]
Anoushka Shankar: Rise

By Jason Sklar

Rise ( CD Angel )
Listen to Anoushka Shankar on the ONE WAY CD 16

Anoushka Shankar, 23, daughter of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar and half sister of Norah Jones, commands recognition in her own right with the release of Rise, her fourth album for Angel Records.

A Father’s Influence
While Anoushka’s father is considered one of the most prestigious classical Indian artists, Ravi Shankar has nurtured his daughter as both a parent and teacher. “Musically, he’s got a huge influence on everything I do,” says Anoushka. “He has trained me so much that a lot of what I do, and my musical preferences are what he does. But now, I go away from him more with modern traditional composing that is more individual.”
Anoushka has not only learned a lot about music from her father, but he has shaped her entire sense of the male species as well. “It’s almost nauseating how cute he is. There is a really high standard of what to expect with him,” says Anoushka. “He’s chivalrous, considerate, and caring. Women swoon for him. They just love him. He makes women feel so good. I have high standards with men because of what I see in my father who is possibly the most significant male in my life.” The standard of achievement that Ravi Shankar instilled in his daughter not only spills over into her taste in men, but also plays a huge role in her artistic development. No matter where she plays, Anoushka displays the gumption and focus of her father.

Wandering the World
Anoushka had a diverse upbringing spanning three continents with her permanent residences. She spent her formative years in London where she had a predominantly Indian upbringing. In London, she heavily involved herself in the arts by studying Indian music, and she took dancing lessons to gain a strong foundation in the Indian way of life.

As she entered her pre-teen years in New Delhi, India, Anoushka solidified what had been ingrained in her while in London. “I started becoming a little more my own person, finding my own tastes,” she says. Anoushka relocated again to Encinitas, California, where more than music shaped her identity. There she gained a definition of self beyond her craft.

“Because I traveled so much, I always tried to be independent because there was nothing to attach to,” remarks Anoushka. “I did not feel entirely Indian, American, or English. I was very confused. I was lost about who I was and where I come from.” Playing the sitar grounds Anoushka and helps her to place herself. Just as it is difficult to catalogue her music in a single category, Anoushka denies boundaries, boxes, and labels by reaffirming her individuality to herself and others. “I don’t fit into a box,” Anoushka says. “I am determined to just be me and not try to fit into what people consider to be this music.”

Sitar – The Music
In India, the sitar is the most common of stringed instruments. According to Anoushka, the instrument dates back to the 13th century Persian insurgency when the three-stringed sehtar came about. This instrument then morphed into the vina, a South Indian stringed instrument that branched off into the instrument that has been known as the sitar for the past 120 years. The sitar played today has nineteen strings. Ravi Shankar added the lowest bass string as well as a gagging system to allow multiple tones to be produced during fast play, while retaining a clean sound.

On Rise, as in other traditional Indian music, there is an absence of harmony, counterpoint, and chords in a music principally based on melody and rhythm. “They [melody and rhythm] are both so vast,” says Anoushka. Rhythmically, each measure is usually allocated groupings of sixteen beats with the ultimate goal of landing on the one. “In flamenco, you land on the last beat,” she says. “Here, you do something free and try to land on the one.”

Heard on “Mahadeva” and “Voice of the Moon,” the tehai is the rhythmic pattern that is repeated three times, especially when a section is coming to an end and all the musicians are striving to hit the first beat in tandem. “It’s very mathematical,” says Anoushka. “There’s a lot of mental work going on while improvising. We’re doing very intense calculations, but when you finish with one beat less than expected it can be very exciting. You gotta love numbers.”

“The music is so full just from melody and rhythm that you don’t miss harmony and you don’t miss counterpoint.” But when playing alongside her father, Anoushka says she often utilizes harmonic elements rather than mirroring her father’s notes verbatim. Within this style, light harmony elements add a new dimension to a genre heavily rooted in musical mores.

The music often hinges on the raga, the melodic form over which the musician improvises. “You never leave the heart of a raga,” explains Anoushka. There are thousands of ragas each with six or seven notes, five at the very least. The same third and seventh notes may be flattened, but the ascending (Arohana) and descending (Avarohana) patterns often vary from one another. There are certain tones that are the most important in a raga. “Each note creates the entire focus,” says Anoushka. “As you start to reach in a raga, it may become similar to another as any raga is very close to several others.”

Because of the improvisational element of ragas, comparisons are sometimes drawn between Indian music and jazz. “This is a relatively superficial comparison,” says Anoushka. “The improvisation in this music is rather modal and the approach is different.” In jazz, a group can progress and modulate whereas classical Indian improvisation often sticks to a particular theme for a song’s duration. “We have freedom within improvisation, but could never modulate,” she clarifies. “To me, what’s similar is the energy and freshness because improvisation has a momentaryness in both forms.”

The ties between jazz and Indian music may be tenuous, but just as jazz musicians try to create or leave space, Anoushka likes to play fast to showcase her technical acumen. She agrees, “Sometimes it is better to play calmly and quietly and let the music breathe.”

Classical Indian music distinguishes the Anahata Nad (unstruck sound) from the Ahata Nad (struck sound). The Anahata Nad is the space between all the flurries of notes and percussion. In Indian culture, music can be a path to self-realization as tradition has it that sound is God – Nada Brahma. This concept of the divinity is present in both the Anahata Nad and the Ahata Nad. The former illustrates the quietness within oneself while the latter evokes the expressiveness within oneself. Musically, ragas are conventions for elevating one’s individual consciousness to a level of awareness on which one can truly appreciate the essence of the universe.

Each raga is principally dominated by one of nine rasas that stem from the concept of Nava Rasa - the “nine sentiments.” Rasa literally means “juice” or “extract,” but here is used to describe “emotion” or “sentiment.” There is Shringara (the romantic and erotic), Hasya (the humorous), Karuna (the pathetic), Raudra (anger), Veera (the heroic), Bhayanaka (the fearful), Vibhatsa (the disgusting), Adbhuta (amazement) and Shanta (the peaceful). Anoushka captures each of these sentiments during Rise in a musical display as emotionally intriguing and inspiring as a showing of Cirque du Soleil. Her refusal to restrict her music to the ears of those familiar with it may strike non-Eastern eardrums as foreign at first, but in a way that invites you to learn, listen, and appreciate.

“World Music”
With a seemingly infinite number of genres and sub-genres used to describe music, it is a wonder why so often the term “world music” is haphazardly used as a blanket reference for music originating outside the West. “This is a very tricky term,” says Anoushka. “It gives respect to it [the music]. It makes it seem exotic or oriental. The term is very Western-centric. You [Americans] have so many categories: rap, hip hop, rock . . . if you grouped this music together and called it ‘world music’ that would make sense to me.”

Created by all continents of the globe, “world music” has evolved from such unique histories and cultures that the term could really refer to anything. “It is quite meaningless,” she grapples. “As an umbrella term, I don’t like it, but for a lot of the crossover music nowadays, it sometimes works.” In Anoushka’s opinion, the amalgamation of the world’s musical styles warrants the use of the term, but fails to truly differentiate her music from other Eastern or Western music.

“Labels are just labels. You can’t box them [musical styles],” urges Anoushka. “I find the world all the more beautiful because it’s full of surprises. There are more people that do yoga in California than in India and there’s a better nightlife in India. I find the contradictions exciting.”

On Rise, Anoushka proves she should not simply be labeled Ravi Shankar’s prodigy daughter. Rather, she deserves recognition as an independent, bold musician bringing Eastern music to the West with respect for her rich heritage, but with a treatment all her own.


Listen to (Anoushka Shankar) on the ONE WAY CD

Rise Anoushka Shankar Rise

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