SITAR HERO: Phawker Tawks With Anoushka Shankar

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WIKIPEDIA:  Anoushka Shankar (Hindi: ??????? ????), b. June 9, 1981, is a sitar player and composer in the United Kingdom. She is the daughter of Ravi Shankar, Indian sitar player, and Sukanya Shankar. Through her father, she is the half-sister of Grammy Award winner Norah Jones. Anoushka was born in London. When she was eight years old, her father began training her in the sitar. She gave a public performance at the age of thirteen; since then she has become a world famous sitar artist. The Indian Television Academy, Asmi, and India Times chose her as one of four Women of the Year in India in 2003. In 2004 she was chosen as one of twenty Asian Heroes by the Asia edition of Time magazine. Her album Rise was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Contemporary World Music category. This was Anoushka’s second Grammy nomination. In August of 2007 Anoushka released her most recent album, Breathing Under Water, a mind bending mix of classical sitar and electronica beats and melodies. Notable guest vocals include her half-sister, Norah Jones and Sting, while her father also performs in a sitar duet along with his daughter. The album was released on August 28, 2007. MORE

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PHAWKER: Your father, Ravi Shankar, started teaching you how to play the sitar at the age of eight. If you had to do over, what other instrument do you wish you started learning at that age.

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: The piano, it’s just a much more accessible instrument, especially when you are thatsitar.jpg young. The sitar is a very intimidating instrument to learn, at any age. You have to learn how to sit, you have to develop callouses on your fingers. The strings are very thin and the fretboard is bowed, and the strings literally cut into your fingers. Sitar players get two thin grooves in their first two fingers.

PHAWKER: Wow! Are those little grooves in your fingers good for anything else? Like opening bottle caps?

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR:
[Laughs]

PHAWKER:
Tell me something about the sitar nobody knows.

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: It is made out of pumpkins.

PHAWKER: Explain your relation to Norah Jones…

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR:
She is my half sister, she is two years older than me.

PHAWKER:
The Indian media crowned you Woman of the Year in 2003. Is it all downhill after that?

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR:
Oh, that’s kinda like being one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful. Must be taken with a pinch of salt.

sitar.jpgPHAWKER: Right, that’s how I dealt with it. You have been involved with PETA over the years, can we expect one of those I WOULD RATHER WEAR NOTHING THAN FUR ads in the future?

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: My involvement with PETA has mostly been about raising awareness about cruelty in zoos.

PHAWKER: Bollywood — good, bad, indifferent? Discuss.

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: I am amazed by the global fascination with it, and of course it’s fun. But it’s also a very one-dimensional way to look at India. At the same time, Indians are obsessed with music. You can’t start playing music on the street without somebody starting to dance.

PHAWKER: Obama or McCain?

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: I would have to go with Obama.

PHAWKER: Good answer!

Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar perform Sunday, October 19 in Verizon Hall 7:30pm

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