Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar is one of the leading figures in World Music today. She is deeply rooted in Indian classical music, having studied exclusively with her father, the legendary Ravi Shankar, from the age of nine. Thriving as a composer, she has been exploring fertile ground in the crossover between Indian music and a variety of genres including flamenco, electronica, jazz and Western classical music. Twice-nominated for a Grammy Award, Anoushka was the first Indian musician to perform at the Grammy Awards in 2006 when she was nominated for Rise, soon after becoming the youngest-ever nominee and the first woman nominated in the World Music category, for her album Live at Carnegie Hall in 2002. She was also chosen as one of 20 Asian Heroes by the Asia edition of Time magazine in 2004, and was the youngest and first female recipient of a House of Commons Shield from the British House of Parliament in 1999.
Born in London, and raised between there, New Delhi and California, Anoushka’s career was international from the start. She made her performance debut in 1995 in New Delhi at the age of thirteen, and was playing venues such as Carnegie Hall by the age of fifteen, accompanying her father at his concerts worldwide. At sixteen she signed an exclusive recording contract with Angel/EMI and released three classical recordings: Anoushka (1998), Anourag (2000) and Live at Carnegie Hall (2001), all to great critical acclaim. After finishing her schooling, Anoushka put all of her focus into following her musical pursuits and began touring in earnest, developing a solo career as a classical sitarist, while also continuing to accompany her father.
Two further albums for Angel/EMI marked a radical departure for Anoushka. On Rise (2005), Anoushka composed, arranged and produced her own music, influenced by East and West, employing both acoustic and electronic instrumentation. The positive response for Rise turned into a second Grammy nomination and a global tour of over ninety concerts, and Anoushka formed the Anoushka Shankar Project in order to maintain a clear distinction between this more experimental work and her classical sitar concerts.
In 2007 Anoushka collaborated with the talented Indian-American musician Karsh Kale, to create the album Breathing Under Water. Co-produced by Gaurav Raina of the group MIDIval Punditz, this album featured guest appearances by Anoushka’s father, her half-sister Norah Jones, Sting, and others.
In 2011 Anoushka signed to the prestigious classical music label Deutsche Grammophon Records, and released Traveller, an exciting exploration of two musical traditions: Spanish flamenco and Indian classical music. For this, Anoushka worked with legendary producer Javier Limon, and invited renowned guest artists like Shubha Mudgal, Buika, Pepe Habichuela and longtime-collaborator Tanmoy Bose, among many others. In support of Traveller Anoushka has embarked upon an extensive worldwide tour of which will continue well into the second part of 2012.
She has made guest appearances on recordings by diverse artists, among them Herbie Hancock, Joshua Bell, Lenny Kravitz, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Thievery Corporation. In 2002 Anoushka conducted and performed at the historic Concert for George, a tribute to the late George Harrison. Anoushka has developed a strong bond with Western classical music; as a teenager she had the good fortune of performing in duet with legends such as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (2000), and flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal (1998). She has also appeared as a soloist with some of the world’s greatest orchestras, and premiered her father’s 3rd Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in 2009, and his first Symphony, with the London Philarmonic Orchestra in 2010.
Over the years Anoushka has maintained active, creative careers outside of music: in 2002 she authored the book Bapi: The Love of My Life, a biographical portrait of her father, and has served as columnist for prestigious publications like New Delhi’s First City magazine and the Hindustan Times. She earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination from India’s National Film Awards for her role in Dance Like a Man in 2004. She was the first Indian ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme, has done campaigns in support of animal rights for PETA, and continues to lend her time and name to causes she believes in.
Today, from her home in London, where she lives with her husband and son, Anoushka’s career reflects her aim to constantly stretch herself creatively. As multi-award winning musician Nitin Sawhney wrote in the sleeve-notes of Traveller, “no one embodies the spirit of innovation and experimentation more evidently than Anoushka Shankar.”