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Anoushka Shankar (born 9 June 1981) is an Indian sitar player and composer. She is the daughter of Ravi Shankar and the half-sister of Norah Jones.
Shankar was born in London and her childhood was divided between London and Delhi. She is the daughter of Sukanya Shankar and Indian sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. Through her father, she is also a half-sister of American singer Norah Jones (born Geetali Shankar), and Shubhendra "Shubho" Shankar, who died in 1992.
As a teenager, Shankar lived in Encinitas, California, and attended San Dieguito High School Academy. A 1999 honors graduate and Homecoming Queen, Shankar decided to pursue a career in music rather than attend college.
Shankar began training on the sitar with her father Ravi at the age of seven. As part of her training, she began accompanying him on the tanpura at his performances from the age of ten, soaking up the music and becoming acclimatised to the stage. Shankar gave her first public sitar performance on 27 February 1995 at the age of 13, at Siri Fort in New Delhi as part of her father's 75th birthday celebration concert. For this solo debut, she was accompanied by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. Her first experience in the recording studio came that same year when Angel Records released a special four-CD box set called In Celebration, to mark her father's birthday. By the age of fourteen, she was accompanying her father at concerts around the world. At fifteen, she assisted her father on the landmark album Chants of India, produced by George Harrison. Under both their guidance, she was in charge of notation and eventually of conducting the performers who took part in the record. After this experience, the heads of Angel Records came to her parents' home to ask to sign her, and Anoushka signed her first exclusive recording contract with Angel Records (EMI) when she was sixteen.
She released her first album, Anoushka, in 1998, followed by Anourag in 2000. In 1999 Shankar graduated from high school with honors, but decided against university in favour of beginning to tour as a solo artist. Both Shankar and her half-sister Norah Jones were nominated for Grammy awards in 2003 when Shankar became the youngest-ever and first woman nominee in the World Music category for her third album, Live at Carnegie Hall.
Having released three albums of Indian classical music, Anoushka took several years away from recording and focused her energy on establishing herself as a solo concert performer outside of her father's ensemble. In that time, she toured worldwide, playing an average of 50-60 concerts per year. 2005 brought the release of her fourth album RISE, her first self-produced, self-composed, non-classical album, earning her another Grammy nomination in the Best Contemporary World Music category. In February 2006 she became the first Indian to play at the Grammy Awards, playing material from RISE.
Shankar, in collaboration with Karsh Kale, released Breathing Under Water on 28 August 2007. It is a mix of classical sitar and electronica beats and melodies. Notable guest vocals included her paternal half-sister Norah Jones, Sting, and her father, who performed a sitar duet with her.
In 2011 Shankar signed with the legendary record label Deutsche Grammophon as an exclusive artist. This marked the beginning of a prolific recording and creative period for Shankar, during which time she continued to refine the unique sitar sound and innovative musical ideas she had become known for. She earned a third Grammy Award nomination in 2013 for Traveller, a unique exploration of the shared history between flamenco and Indian classical music, which was produced by Javier Limón and featured artists such as Buika, Pepe Habichuela and Duquende. As Shankar had begun to do with Rise, she created a specially handpicked ensemble of musicians with whom to perform this cross-genre music, and played over a hundred concerts worldwide in support of Traveller. In 2013 she released an incredibly personal album called Traces of You, which was released several months after the passing of her father Ravi Shankar. Produced by Nitin Sawhney, and featuring her half-sister Norah Jones as the sole vocal performer, Traces of You earned Shankar a fourth Grammy nomination in the World Music category. In July 2015 Shankar released Home, her first purely classical album of Indian Ragas. Self-composed and produced, Home was recorded over a week in October 2014 in Shankar's new, purpose-built home-studio.
Shankar has made many guest appearances on recordings by other artists, among them Sting, Lenny Kravitz, Thievery Corporation and Nitin Sawhney. Recently, Shankar has collaborated with Herbie Hancock on his latest record The Imagine Project, and with Rodrigy y Gabriela on their album 11:11.
Duets with artists such as violinist Joshua Bell, in a sitar-cello duet with Mstislav Rostropovich, and with flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, playing both sitar and piano, Shankar has championed her father's compositions. Shankar is also the sole performer of Ravi Shankar's 1st and 2nd Concertos for Sitar and Orchestra, performing multiple times under legendary conductors such as Zubin Mehta. In January 2009 she was the sitar soloist alongside the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra premièring her father's 3rd Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra, and in July 2010 she premiered Ravi Shankar's first symphony for sitar and orchestra with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at London's Royal Festival Hall.
Acting and writing:
Shankar has also ventured into acting (Dance Like a Man, (2004)) and writing. She wrote a biography of her father, Bapi: The Love of My Life, in 2002 and has contributed to various books. As a columnist she wrote monthly columns for India's First City Magazine for three years, and spent one year as a weekly columnist for India's largest newspaper, the Hindustan Times.
On 29 November 2002, Shankar was the featured performer of the "Indian" half of the Concert for George, a posthumous tribute to the life and music of George Harrison, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. She opened the show by playing a solo sitar instrumental titled "Your Eyes". Also on the sitar, she performed George Harrison's "The Inner Light" with Jeff Lynne. Lastly, she conducted a new composition, Arpan, written by her father. The composition featured Eric Clapton playing acoustic guitar, and a full orchestra of Indian and Western musicians. The concert was modelled after Ravi Shankar's benefit concert with Harrison, the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh.
Shankar was invited by Richard Gere and Philip Glass to perform in a concert at the Avery Fisher Hall in 2003 in aid of the Healing the Divide: A Concert for Peace and Reconciliation. Shankar and Jethro Tull postponed a concert scheduled for 29 November 2008 in Mumbai after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. They reorganised the performance as A Billion Hands Concert, a benefit performance for victims of the attacks, and held it on 5 December 2008. Shankar commented on this decision stating that: "As a musician, this is how I speak, how I express the anger within me ... our entire tour has been changed by these events and even though the structure of the concert may remain the same, emotionally perhaps we are saying a lot more."
British House of Commons Shield, 1998,
Woman of the Year awarded on International Women's Day 2003 in India,
Named as one of 20 Asian Heroes by the Asia edition of Time in 2004,
Nominated for a Grammy award in 2003 in the World Music category for her third-album, Live at Carnegie Hall. She was the youngest-ever and first woman nominee in this category.,
In 2005 she was nominated for another Grammy, in the Best Contemporary World Music category for her fourth album RISE.,
In 2013 she was nominated for her third Grammy, in the Best World Music category for her album Traveller.,
In 2014 she was nominated for a fourth Grammy in the Best World Music category for her album Traces of You.,
In 2012 she won Best Artist in the Songlines Music Award for her album Traveller.,
Shankar is a supporter of animal rights. She and her father appeared in a thirty-second public-service announcement against animal suffering for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Anoushka is also the spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme in India.
In 2011, in response to the horrific gang-rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi, whom the Indian media referred to as Nirbhaya, Shankar threw her weight behind an online campaign One Billion Rising on Change.org, demanding an end to crime against women. As part of the campaign, she released a video in which she revealed she had been sexually abused for many years as a child.
Shankar grew up between the United States, the United Kingdom, and India. After beginning a relationship with British director Joe Wright in 2009 she moved to London, where they married on 26 September 2010. Their first son, Zubin Shankar Wright, was born on 22 February 2011, followed by a second son, Mohan Shankar Wright, on 17 February 2015.
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