Celebrated artiste, classical sitarist and Grammy Award nominee Anoushka Shankar is out with her seventh album. In Traveller, Shankar explores the possibilities in bringing together flamenco with Indian classical strains, resulting in some thrilling compositions.

For her last album, Breathing Under Water, Shankar had worked with several styles of music, including electronica, folk and dance. With Traveller, she decided to go with a single style. “Over the years, I have learnt how to work with different styles of music, but this time I decided to focus on a single idea and allow that to develop. I had dabbled in flamenco before and realized that it deserved this kind of space," says Shankar over the phone from Mumbai, on a visit to the country to promote her album.

Anoushka Shankar

The sitarist has collaborated with Javier Limón, a celebrated music producer from Spain known for incorporating elements of flamenco rhythm in his work. “Javier has influenced nearly all the compositions in this album. Some pieces were created by both of us, some were written by him and adapted by me for a more Indian flavour, and vice versa. He is a great (music) producer, so even when he wasn’t involved in the composition, he was still part of the recording and the quality of the mix," she adds.

While exploring flamenco was an adventure in itself, Shankar recalls that recording the album was an even bigger task because it was done partially in India, Europe and then put together in a studio. Though vastly different in terms of style, the two kinds of music tied in well because of their similarities in cyclical rhythm, passion and soulfulness.

“The most fulfilling piece of the album for me has to be Boy Meets Girl, which is a sitar and guitar duet with the legendary Pepe Habichuela. We hit a very special place in terms of crossover where two styles of music existed purely and harmoniously..." says Shankar. There are several other duets in the album: Apart from Boy Meets Girl, some of the tracks that stand out are Dancing in Madness, Buleria con Ricardo and Si No Puedo Verla for their perfect and seamless blending of the two styles of music. To provide context for those listening to Indian classical music for the first time, Shankar has also included several wholly Indian pieces.

Shankar’s father, Pandit Ravi Shankar, is known for his collaborations with musicians from the West, including the legendary Yehudi Menuhin, the Russian violinist and conductor—she claims these have always served as a point of inspiration. “When my father was doing it, he was the first. He was only starting to expose the West to Indian music, but today it has become more of a dialogue," says Shankar. “What I do is different from what my father has done but I have always been inspired by his level of integrity during these collaborations," she adds.

The India tour to promote the album brings Shankar to the country after two years. After around 30 shows across Europe, Shankar performed in Mumbai on 13 January and Delhi on 15 January as part of the Vh1 Handpicked concert series. The next leg includes Jaipur on 19 January, Chennai on 20 January, Bangalore on 22 January, Guwahati on 2 February and Kolkata on 4 February.

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