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Sitar Star


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TALK ABOUT having a great music teacher. Anoushka Shankar was taking sitar lessons from her legendary father, Ravi Shankar, at age nine. Now 25, the Grammy-nominated performer tours with an ensemble of Eastern and Western musicians, and will perform with the California Symphony in Walnut Creek this spring.
Did you ever feel a struggle between living up to a legacy versus forging your own path asa musician?
While the fear of living up to a legacy was always present, it’s something I decided very early on to ignore. It’s not that I ever forgot who my father was or what that would mean to some people, but I knew, and my parents were always sure to remind me, that I could only play music if I was doing it for myself and if I loved it. So that was always my focus. And forging one’s own path becomes a natural journey when you’re simply doing what you love.
Describe your connection to the sitar.
The sitar was obviously always around as I grew up, and I always loved its versatility of sound and its sweetness. I’m not sure if the sitar itself would have presented the same magic to me if it hadn’t been my father who was the one playing it most of the time! It’s his magic and his music that really drew me in and made me want to replicate it myself, and the sitar was a means to reaching that.
You recently collaborated with your half sister, Norah Jones. What was it like working together?
It was a really nice experience to work together. We didn’t have a lot of time to come up with anything, but it was fun getting to experience each other that way and explore writing together.
What do you have planned for the Cal Symphony? What can the audience expect?
We’ll be performing my father’s Sitar Concerto No. 1 for Sitar and Orchestra, which was premiered in the 1970s with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra. It was the first time someone attempted to combine the sitar with a full Western orchestra, and it’s written in a Western classical concerto format but with each movement being based on a classical Indian raga. It’s a very unique piece of music and one I love to perform very much.
Anoushka Shankar and the California Symphony will perform on May 6 and May 8 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. For tickets, call (925) 943-7469 or go to www.lesherartscenter.org . Shankar also performs at Herbst Theatre on April 1 as part of the San Francisco Jazz Spring Season (800-850-7353, www.sfjazz.org ), while her father, Ravi Shankar, performs at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall on April 29 (510-642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu ).

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