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Anoushka Shankar: Different Worlds, One Musical Language

Anoushka Shankar at Asia Society New York on Jan. 24, 2009.

Anoushka Shankar at Asia Society New York on Jan. 24, 2009.

NEW YORK, January 24, 2009 – Sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar joined the Grammy Award-winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at the Asia Society for an open rehearsal of acclaimed composer/performer Ravi Shankar's Concerto No. 3 for Sitar and Orchestra, which will have its world premiere at Carnegie Hall on January 31, 2009.

Audience members enjoyed an exhilarating performance from Shankar and the orchestra, and afterwards gained deeper insights into the making of this historic piece (the first that Ravi Shankar has written expressly for his daughter as soloist).

After the rehearsal, Shankar joined Ronnie Bauch, currently Senior Advisor and Managing Director Emeritus of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, onstage for a conversation with Asia Society President Vishakha Desai. They discussed how the concerto joins Western and Indian classical music traditions, and how those traditions are vastly different in their approaches to musicality.

In one highlight of the discussion, Shankar described how Indian music is usually memorized by ear, leaving room for improvisation, while Bauch explained that the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it plays without a conductor, and aims for an improvisatory quality itself. For this reason, he added, the Orpheus was especially excited to collaborate with both Shankars.

Responding to questions from the audience, Shankar said that she has always found it an inspiration to have Ravi Shankar as her father, and good-naturedly denied that she had ever felt any pressure to learn (or not learn) the sitar herself.

Desai noted the historical significance of the day's performance, given that the Asia Society was one of the sponsors of Ravi Shankar’s first performances in the United States, as well as his first United States tour in 1957, and was honored on this occasion to present his daughter, a prodigious talent in her own right, to a New York City audience.

Video: Anoushka Shankar in performance and discussion (3 min., 26 sec.)