Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar’s double win at the 55th Grammy awards this year, will remain a bitter-sweet memory for his musician daughters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones. Anoushka, a sitar player herself, is planning a “belated effort” to hold a memorial for her father in New Delhi.
“I am very grateful that he got to know he was going to receive the Grammy before he died. Sadly, he wasn’t there to personally receive it. So, it was a very bitter-sweet moment for us,” said Anoushka, who was nominated in the best world music album category for “Traveller”.
Ravi Shankar died in December at the age of 92 following a heart surgery in California. He won the best world music album Grammy for “The Living Room Sessions Part 1” spanning a wide range of Indian classical styles, and he was also honoured with a posthumous lifetime achievement award. “The Living Room Sessions Part II”, which spans a wide range of Indian classical ragas, will be released end of 2013, featuring ragas improvised in October 2011 in informal sessions in Shankar’s living room with tabla player Tanmoy Bose at his home in California. Bose, a long-time accompanist of Shankar, said, “It was pure Shankar, the pairing of deep musical experience and brilliant technique, performed with the energy and passion he brings to his live concerts.” Anoushka and Norah received the honour.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. It was an emotional moment for all Indians to see you and your sister Norah receiving the Grammy on your father’s behalf.
A. For us too. The feelings I went through were mixed. It was wonderful to see him honoured. We were incredibly proud. I am very grateful that he got to know he was going to receive the Grammy before he died. Sadly, he wasn’t there to personally receive it. So it was a very bitter-sweet moment for us..
Q. Ravi Shankar was an icon. Do you feel a sense of responsibility about carrying his legacy forward?
A. Yes, and no. I never thought of it as a responsibility before. But now I do feel there’s a legacy to be passed on and shared with others. I am conscious that there are generations after me who haven’t grown up with the iconic figure of my father in their lives. And it’s very important for my father’s music to go out in the world. In that sense. I do feel I’ve a responsibility of sharing his music with people.
Q. Has the passing away of Ravi Shankar brought you and your sister together?
A. Not really. Over the years, we’ve been incredibly close. I am grateful, though, to have a sister Norah to share all of this with. It would have been more difficult to go though this phase alone.
Q. How much of a sitar player is Norah?
A. She doesn’t play the sitar. In fact, she is quite shocked by how difficult it is to play the sitar.
Q. Do you think Ravi Shankar’s disciples are capable of carrying on his legacy?
A. I don’t know if ‘capable’ is the right word. Once you put it that way, you’re putting up future generations for unnecessary scrutiny. Everyone would be doing whatever he or she can do. My advise to my father’s followers is to have a sense of responsibility and dedication towards my father’s music. That would automatically perpetuate his legacy. Beyond that there is no measure of success or failure regarding his legacy.
Q. In other words no one should be thinking of measuring up to him?
A. Yeah, by the virtue of being his disciples we’re carrying on his legacy. Beyond that, there is little one can do.
Q. Are you planning to do anything in Ravi Shankar’s memory?
A. Yes, I am coming to India in a couple of weeks, and we are planning to hold a memorial for him in Delhi at the beginning of March. The details are being worked out. We’re not able to do any immediate memorial service in India for him. So, this is our belated effort.
Q. Do you still travel as much as you used to?
A. It feels like a lot more now, to be honest. Recently, I was travelling to be with my father as much as I could. And there was my husband and baby, plus my own work. It was quite crazy. I don’t get enough sleep. It’s about time management, really.