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Anoushka Shankar: Many music festivals prefer popular or named artists

Favouritism and nepotism in the film and music industry has been discussed time and again, especially after actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death. And sitarist Anoushka Shankar admits it is very difficult for people to break into the music industry in India.

“Of course, it’s easier for people who come from families that are already established in music. For example, many of the music festivals prefer to give a chance to popular or named artists. That, therefore, doesn’t allow unknown artistes to break in,” she says. However, she’s quick to add that there are a few music festivals which allow lesser known names to perform along with popular musicians, thus helping them grow.


Lack of access to music or arts in general is another thing which, according to the 39-year-old, prevents people from pursuing music as a full-time profession. “Access to arts at a school level is very important. I really wish music is a part of regular curriculum in schools, not just from a professional perspective, but also because of the psychological and spiritual impact it can have on children,” says Anoushka, daughter of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.

The lockdown was undoubtedly a hard time for many, but Anoushka confesses that it taught her how to manage her career and personal life. “I was quite busy in the lockdown, because of my two kids,” she laughs, adding, “Parenting was my primary experience during this lockdown. How to fit my artistry around my children (Zubin and Mohan Shankar Wright), instead of it being the other way around. It was challenging, but equally rewarding, too.”

It has also made her realise the importance of technology. “I keep thinking if it would have happened 30 years back, our experience would have been totally different. It would have been incredibly difficult to even connect with each other, let alone think of the ability to do virtual concerts and create music. Things are going to change going forward, and will happen more remotely. That will impact creativity as well,” she says.

She has already started adapting the change. Her latest music video for the song Those Words, which is a part of her EP (Extended Playlist) Love Letters, was shot remotely, which hardly had any impact on the delivery of the song’s message. “I just reached out to these amazing women, and asked them to record stuff from their homes. In a way it is a very stripped down video, as in it is very simple, there’s nothing fancy about it,” she says.


The entire EP sort of talks about the power of female friendships. And not just as a concept, but in the making of this EP as well, only women were involved. Right from engineers, to musicians, only women were involved in this EP,” she adds.

However, the most frustrating part of her work is also related to the Internet. “I miss those days where we just focused on work without having to blast it on social media. I have a very mixed relationship with it. It definitely has an impact on you as a person. But the flip side to it is that we get a chance to make a relationship with our fans,” she says, signing off on the note that her “love-hate relationship with social media will continue”.

Interact with the author on Twitter/@sammysamarth

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