Don't be obsessed with international awards: Anoushka Shankar

By Ruchika Kher

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) She was awarded the House of Commons Shield in London and nominated for the Grammy awards in 2003. But sitarist Anoushka Shankar believes one should not be "too obsessed" with international honours.

"It always helps when the global focus shifts to a country, but it's not that India has arrived permanently," Anoushka said days after "Slumdog Millionaire's" winning spree at the Oscars as well as tabla legend Zakir Hussain's Grammy for the "Global Drum Project".

"I see it as being yet another moment in time when India is in focus, like it has been before and will be again," Anoushka, 27, looking dazzling in a wine-coloured short dress and sporting a nose stud, told IANS in an interview here.

"Definitely people should capitalise on the acclaim that India is getting, enjoy and celebrate it, but it's important that it should not be taken out of context," said the daughter of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.

"It's not that a Grammy makes someone a better musician than they already are. It's not like a Western award is better than an Indian award, it's not something that we should be too obsessed with," she said. Her half-sister Norah Jones is also a Grammy winner.

Anoushka herself was awarded the House of Commons Sheild by the British Parliament in 1998 for recognition of her artistry as a pre-eminent musician of the Asian arts.

Having been tutored in Indian classical music by her father, she made her recording debut at the young age of 13 for the album, "In Celebration", a tribute to the works of her father.

The young musician, who was born in London, made her solo debut later with her album "Anoushka" in 1998. She shuttles between the US and India.

She received a National Award nomination for best supporting actress in the film "Dance Like A Man" in 2004 and her album "Rise" (2005) found critical acclaim. The musician says she is still open to acting in films.

"I had one small experience in acting and I enjoyed it, so I am open to acting again, it will be fun. But because I'm not an actress, I will be choosy, it's not like I need to do a film. So if something very interesting comes my way, I will be happy to do it," said Anoushka.

Speaking on what role music plays in her life, Anoushka said: "Music plays the role of connecting us to our spirit. It's about celebrating that more exalting side of ourselves and of tapping us back into our beautiful side, the side that is creative, loving, sensual and earthy."

According to her, "today when everything is abstract, cerebral, complicated and stressful, music draws us back in - in the same way as a sunset is supposed to draw us back in. Just coming back to the human spirit, coming back to what is real."

Anoushka will be touring the US with her father in April.

When asked if it was difficult to create a separate identity for herself in the same field as her famous father, the musician answered, she said: "I think I have been fortunate in the last few years to be able to create a mark for myself.

"I don't want to run away from this tag of being my father's daughter because I am his daughter. I don't want to run away from being his student because I am his student.

"That is part of my story and I love and respect that. Yet I don't want it to be my only story. I don't want people to only see me as someone's daughter because I am more than that. And I've tried my best to work hard. It feels nice that today they know me as a musician too," shared Anoushka.

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at ruchika.k@ians.in)

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