Sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar talks with Tony Sarabia

March 28, 2012

Listen to Anoushka Shankar on Eight Forty-Eight

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The old saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” couldn’t more true when it comes to sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar. When your teacher is Ravi Shankar - perhaps the greatest sitar player of the 20th century - how can you not pick up some pointers?

Anoushka started playing music at an early age; first taking up the Indian drone instrument called the tempura. Her father Ravi then presented her with a specially built sitar that conformed to her small stature. 

This wasn’t a case of over-bearing parents wanting their kid to take on the family business. As a matter of fact, both dad and mom (who, by the way, is a master of the Carnatic vocal style of southeastern India) told Anoushka she didn’t have to study sitar-- but if she did, she’d have to be serious about the craft.

That she was, and by the time she was 13 years old, she was performing with her father onstage.

Anoushka recorded her first album three years later and since then has released six other albums; the latest, Traveller, is an exploration of the connection between Indian classical music and Spanish flamenco.

In Indian culture sitar players are usually men, while women play the role of singer and dancer. Anoushka has been a trailblazer in that regard. In 2006, she became the first Indian to play at the Grammy Awards.

You might be thinking her success was made easier because her father is who he is, and she would agree.

But she also acknowledges the challenges of coming out from under the shadow of Ravi Shankar and getting recognition for her talents.  And even though she has met those challenges, she remains down to earth and has great respect for the ancient craft of sitar. 

Anoushka will join us on Eight Forty-Eight to talk about her new album, her family and her unique work.