/ Like Father, Like Daughter

Like Father, Like Daughter

Jul 07, 2014

Anoushka Shankar, daughter of iconic sitarist Ravi, is forging a musical legacy of her own.

Having a father like the legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar means you have some tough shoes to fill, despite the advantages that come with such a lineage. But his daughter, the multi-talented Anoushka Shankar, has handled the challenge well. Stepping out of dad’s shadow, she’s put out seven acclaimed albums and toured the world as a Grammy-nominated musician while also dabbling in the worlds of acting and writing and penning a biography about her father. She’s also had considerable success on the personal front, marrying Hollywood director Joe Wright (Atonement) in 2010 and welcoming baby Zubin a year later. Shankar recently took the time to chat with ANOKHI about motherhood, her creative connection with her husband and working with her half-sister, Norah Jones, on her latest album.

Ashanti Omkar: This album, Traces of You, sounds a lot more grown-up than your previous works . . .
Anoushka Shankar: It’s funny because it all evolved in stages and it’s hard to trace back, in some ways. It started last summer [2012] when I was thinking about the fact that I wanted to make a new album of course, and yet I had a really full life. I’d recently become a parent and I’d moved to London. A lot was going on in life and I really wanted to work in a way that would keep me grounded in London. I wanted to work at home as much as possible, unlike the last album, and also to work with London-based musicians. On a musical level, I wanted to trace influences, as I was always fascinated by the idea that we are all a product of where we come from — tracing the threads that run through things like music, my identity — as I’d come from London and here I was, living in London again. Tracing my father’s influence in my own music was also part of it.

AO: Tell us about the title track, “Traces of You,” on which you collaborated with your half-sister, Norah Jones.
AS: Well, it was right at the beginning. I knew I wanted to trace influences. I wanted Nitin [Sawhney, composer of The Namesake by Mira Nair] on it and I knew I wanted to work with Norah as a singer on the album. It was very important for me to create a consistent journey through the course of the music and I knew that having one singer as opposed to multiple singers, would create a more consistent story, over the space of the album. It was obvious that the one singer was Norah and the content was very personal stuff, so getting to do that with her was beautiful.

AO: Nitin was a part of this album in a big way . . .
AS: As soon as I knew that this was the kind of album I wanted to make, Nitin was literally the first person on my mind, as I knew he’d be the perfect guy who would help me achieve the kind of sound and the integrity that runs through music that crosses various genres and styles. It’s something he’s known for and we’re good friends, so there is a level of trust, to get to a stage of intimacy in our writing process.

AO: What is your creative process?
AS: I’m fond of working in spurts and stages — intense days where it was all about work, then a break to go back to other bits of work and come back together again. Over the course of the year, the music kept evolving. It was a very open process with my ideas to be developed with arrangements. Some pieces were about me on the sitar and Nitin on the guitar jamming, so it flowed nicely.

AO: You wrote a lot of the lyrics in this album?
AS: For the track “Traces of You,” I had written a poem, and Nitin and Norah helped me fit that into the structure of the song. I write a lot of lyrics, in different ways. As a teenager, I wrote a lot of very dubious poetry, but it did develop into one of my hobbies, which is writing. I did a few columns and wrote a book [Bapi . . . the Love of My Life]. Usually my lyrics end up translated; my last record had them in Spanish, and previous to that, Hindi. It’s an important part of my music and what I’m trying to get across.

AO: You do an awful lot of touring every year, even as a new mother . . .
AS: It’s hard. I’ve always been a touring musician and it’s what I know. I’ve been on the road since I was 13 and when I made Traveller, I became pregnant and sort of just steamrolled through what I want to do. For Traveller, we did 95 concerts, for example. If I look back, I say, “Wow, it was great,” but sometimes it was at the cost of sanity. Basically I never slept. We had a young baby and now I am trying to change that a little bit. I love getting to be home with Zubin and to hang out with him. I’m sad that we’re touring less with Traces of You, as I’d love to showcase something we’re proud of with every city possible. But, we are finite, aren’t we? [Laughs.]

AO: Lets talk about Zubin.
AS: He’s funny [Laughs]. Kids absorb the environment they’re in and he’s surrounded by a lot of music and art and musicians. That is a part of his life. Whether that means he’s a born artist or will end up wanting to be an artist, is a completely different thing.

AO: You’re married to Joe Wright who is very prolific in the filmmaking world . . .
AS: Well actually, Joe influences my music a lot. We’re a couple, but we also love and admire each other’s work. Since beginning a relationship together, it’s been a part of our life; we do share each other’s process and work. He’s someone I do play my music to. Actually, particularly as a director, I love the way he uses music in his films. The soundtrack of Atonement is something that really stood out to me years ago. I trust his musical ear and there is a lot of his influences on this album, actually. It’s all over the place in the album, like “Indian Summer,” “Metamorphosis,” the title, Traces of You; I had just thought of the word “traces” and he thought that “traces of you” had a much better sound to it.

AO: Who or what has influenced you all through your life?
AS: Parents for starters. Obviously my father is overarching, because he was a guru and a father so there is no influence that compares to that in my life. Places influence me. The culture of travel and having lived all over the world in my life perhaps has been more of an influence than any specific people. But certain close friends, teachers. I value relationships very much and derive a great deal from them. India, California, London have been where I lived, like a tripod in my life. They all give me different inspirations.





Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter for all of the latest news, articles, and videos delivered directly to your inbox each day!

  • PLEASE NOTE: Some of the contents of the newsletter may not be suitable for minors.

    Join A Community That Cares About What Matters To You!

    We Fearlessly Celebrate Our

    Desi Identity!