October 19 2016
Spellbinding, subtle, and strident, the sitar pupil and daughter of the great Ravi Shankar produced an unforgettable medley from her new album, all with a heightened purpose…
By Tasha Mathur
ALTHOUGH her name will forever be tied to her father’s, world renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar has always been known for going beyond the realms of traditional classical Indian music and her most recent concert in the UK, was no exception.
Opening without an introduction, the audience were immediately captivated as the dimly lit stage gradually came to life through the introduction of each instrument to create a mix of song after song with no dialogue in between.
Playing tracks from her latest album, “Land of Gold” (released in the spring of this year), Shankar eventually explained that this was an emotional response to the, “hugely important” refugee crisis, telling the audience, “hopefully, you will experience all the different shades of our emotions throughout the evening”.
For instance, “Crossing the Rubicon”, evoked an eerie sense of displacement but also a “form of healing” while an instrumental version of the album’s title track, “Land of Gold”, gives a sense of hope to refugees dreaming of a better life. The evening also included “Jump In (Cross the Line)” which features vocals from Sri Lankan singer, M.I.A., who is also known for addressing the refugee crisis in her own song, “Borders”.
The audience were also treated to Shankar’s use of a loop pedal, as she effortlessly added layers of her sitar playing to create music live on stage; a true testament of her insurmountable talent.
While Shankar’s sitar playing was as entrancing as ever, credit must go to her band who accompanied her on the night – Matt Robertson, (keyboard and cello), Sanjeev Shankar (shehnai – Indian wood instrument) and a key highlight, co-writer and hang/drum player, Manu Delago, whose spine-tingling control over the hang drew loud applause from the crowd.
All three musicians’ individual talents came together to showcase a variety of musical elements from jazz to electronica to create a unique and refreshing sound.
Having gone through a rollercoaster of emotions from fast tempos and high crescendos to slower lilting pieces, the concert ended on a more upbeat note with the last few songs such as “Dissolving Boundaries”, which Shankar shared, “makes me think of a wall crumbling down”.
Overlaid with snippets of news report recordings regarding the refugee crisis, it gave the audience a very current and familiar experience of this global situation.
However, Shankar did come back to the traditions of Indian classical music, in her second last song, “Reunion”, which consisted of ragas, which were more reminiscent of her father’s music.
After receiving a standing ovation, Shankar and the band took to the stage once more for a final song – playing a stripped back version of “Say Your Prayers”. This time, sitting on the floor, on a carpet from her own home, Shankar described the song as a lullaby, which she dedicated to her children. It was an appropriately calm and soothing piece to end a night that featured a whirlwind of emotions on a very global crisis.
Concert at Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, on Thursday (October 14).
Anoushka Shankar is currently touring Poland and then the US and returns to the UK for a concert in Birmingham on November 10. For more on this and ticket booking, please see http://www.anoushkashankar.com/