Anoushka Shankar


Anoushka Shankar: In Her Name


To read a list of Anoushka Shankar’s accomplishments is to read many life stories in one: masterful sitarist; prolific recording artist with thirteen solo albums to her name; film composer; impassioned activist. Anoushka was the youngest and first female recipient of a British House of Commons Shield at the age of eighteen; the first Indian musician to perform live or to serve as presenter at the Grammy Awards with an incredible nine nominations under her belt, and the first Indian woman to be nominated; an Ivor Novello-nominee for her A Suitable Boy soundtrack; an  Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music; one of the first five female composers to have been added onto the UK A-level music syllabus; and most recently in June 2024, the recipient of an Honorary Degree in Music from Oxford University.

Celebrating 30 years of stage performance in 2025 with the release of the third chapter in her trilogy of current mini-albums and the Creative Directorship of Brighton Festival, she is a singular, genre-defying artist known  for breaking new ground across realms. From global and electronic music to jazz and neoclassical, Anoushka’s commitment to wild experimentation and fresh collaboration knows no bounds.

The Shankar household where she grew up, moving from London to Delhi to San Diego, California, was seldom a silent place. Under the intensive tutelage of her father, Pandit Ravi Shankar– a figure without whom 20th century music would quite simply not have been what it  was– Anoushka began studying the sitar and Indian classical music from the age of nine.

After making her professional debut at 13, she began touring worldwide alongside her father before  embarking on a successful solo touring career after graduating from high school, quickly becoming known for her virtuosic yet emotional playing style, unusual instrumentation, and  precise rhythmic interplay.

Over the course of a long and diverse career, Anoushka has evolved  into an artist able to call upon her fullest being, representing her multicultural identity and  authentic, vulnerable self.  It is in that spirit of freedom that Anoushka has recently embarked on her most intuitive mode of  writing and releasing music to date.

This time, she honours the ever-shifting nature of her experience on earth through a trilogy of mini-albums, each seeking to capture singular, fleeting  moments in time with an act of trust: choosing new collaborators and walking into the recording studio with no more than an initial creative impulse. Where Ch I: Forever, For Now–produced  by Arooj Aftab and featuring Nils Frahm–conjures the immense stillness and beauty of a sunkissed garden, the Peter Raeburn-produced Ch. II: How Dark It Is Before Dawn veils the garden over, giving rise to the womblike power of darkness, all the better to heal and face the breaking of a new day.

The forthcoming third chapter will bring us fully into the powerful and optimistic  light of morning, completing a cycle of recovery and healing that began with Ch. I and moving  into a celebration of this precious earth and the lives we live upon it.  The road to her current state of artistic freedom has been a long and fruitful one.

Having released  three Indian classical albums for Angel Records EMI and performed at venues such as Carnegie  Hall and the Barbican multiple times by the age of 20, on 2005’s Rise she incorporated earthy  ambience and deep textures, fuelled by a desire “to create music that more fully represents who I am.” Self-composed and produced, with electronics created alongside Gaurav Raina of the  MIDIval Punditz, Rise “was a way to speak the language of my own history: growing up across three continents with one foot in the past and one in the present.”

Earning her a second Grammy® nomination, this cinematic album formed the blueprint for the solo career that followed: notions of physical and sonic space are inverted; instruments flow into each other like  merging streams; disparate systems of tuning, scale, and instrumentation are made to sound as if they were always meant to co-exist. Her follow-up album Breathing Underwater, created in  collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale, envisioned a sonic world where ragas, bright analogue soundscapes, contemplative electronics, and guest turns by Ravi Shankar, Sting, and Bollywood superstars Shankar Mahadevan and Sunidhi Chauhan could sit next to each other  without seeming an inch out of place.

Signing to Deutsche Grammophon in 2011 marked the start of a decade of unbridled musical  fertility. Over the course of four distinct albums– each of them Grammy®-nominated– disparate threads were woven into a tapestry, even as themes shifted and sound palettes expanded. Deep meditations of love and loss on the Nitin Sawhney-produced Traces Of You featured the soulful  singing of Anoushka’s half-sister Norah Jones and nestled against a quietly triumphant return to  pure raga improvisations on Home.

The historical relationship between Indian classical music and Spanish flamenco was explored on the Javier Limón-produced Traveller whilst the current global refugee crisis informed the rallying cry of Land Of Gold. Co-written with frequent collaborator and handpan exponent Manu Delago and featuring M.I.A, Dame Vanessa Redgrave and Alev Lenz, Land Of Gold crystalised Anoushka’s sound: a de-exotified, high-definition sitar  resonating across unpredictable, genre-resistant instrumentation. Alev’s hypnotic presence is also felt on Love Letters, a co-produced album which contains startlingly beautiful turns by Ibeyi, Shilpa Rao and Ayanna Witter-Johnson and distils the raw emotions of each note.

A love of connection across borders and timelines has drawn her to collaborate with diverse  artists including Herbie Hancock, Patti Smith, Joshua Bell, Gold Panda, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Thomas Newman, Jules Buckley, Jacob Collier, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Her touring career has taken her from legendary jazz cafes to iconic symphony halls and festival stages in front of 40,000 people, her versatility transforming each of these locations into an intimate experience for all listening. That versatility comes out of years spent building the confidence to be artistically truthful and to connect to her audience from the heart.

Anoushka’s foray into film composition began with the British Film Institute’s restoration of Shiraz, one of the first major Indian silent feature films, later performing the soundtrack live in sync to the film. Following that, she co-composed the score to Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy, creating a sonic portrait of post-partition India that went on to be nominated for Best Television Soundtrack at the Ivor Novello awards.

A tireless activist who has worked frequently with organisations such as the UNHCR and Choose Love, for whom she is now an official Ambassador, Anoushka’s commitment to humanitarian work deepened in 2012 following the news of a horrific attack on a woman in India that shook the world. Since then, she has been outspoken about her experiences as a woman and a survivor of child abuse, throwing her weight behind campaigns such as One Billion Rising, becoming inaugural President of the F-List: a UK database created to help bridge the gender gap in music, and an Ambassador for The Walk, an international artistic project in support of refugees.

Her commitment to raising her voice is just as clear in her music–in 2022 she released ‘In Her Name’, a piece written in remembrance of Jyoti Singh, and all women who have suffered violence–as it is in her online presence, where, in her typically confessional manner, she regularly discusses her own experiences. All of this speaks to a rare breed of artist; one who can balance many lives in one, each one as natural as the next. Anoushka’s tempests of sound present ancient instruments in modern light, not as exotic set pieces, but as living, breathing, and wildly expressive, full-bodied gifts to this world.

Every note played comes from the soul, “playing to connect to the innermost part of myself and hopefully the listener, evoking empathy or a feeling of hope…you have to believe 
you might make a difference in order to bother trying”.