One doesn't have to hold on to culture: Anoushka

The young maestro has given the background score for the 1928 silent film, ‘Shiraz’, which tells the love story of a princess who inspired Taj Mahal.

She is a noted musician and is taking forward the legacy of her father sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar but Anoushka Shankar says one does not have to hold fast to traditions as culture is inherent. The 36-year-old musician says one has to learn to be secure about it.

In an interview, Anoushka says, "In the last few years in particular, I've found that it's okay to let go of culture rather than hold on to it. And by letting go, you kind of realise that it's there anyway."
"It is kind of in you – you've been brought up a certain way so it's there. You have to have a little confidence in your culture." The sitarist believes if traditions are forced upon people, the greater idea of moving forward together fails. "I think we are all individuals at the end of the day. There's nothing about culture that can prescribe who you're meant to be.
"But when culture becomes a baggage, things don't work. What is good about anything that feels like a baggage? I think we should let go when it feels like a burden. Hold on to the things you love. Then it will be a natural process."
Anoushka has given the background score for the 1928 silent film, Shiraz: a Romance of India, which was resurrected by BFI London. The Franz Osten-directed movie, with Himanshu Rai and Seeta Devi, is the first film for which she has composed music. Anoushka says, "It is a huge honour for me. 'Shiraz' is an important part of our filmmaking and cultural history."
"I figured that they asked me to do this because I work with the kind of music that is simultaneously of an older era and equally modern... And also music that very much belongs to Indian culture and is also multicultural. From the beginning, I wanted to work in a soundscape that is both old and new. That gave me a broad canvas to paint with." Anoushka also said she did not do much research before composing the music for "Shiraz".
"First of all, there is not much record regarding Hindusthani music in the 17th century. I wanted to score the music for the film in the way music can be made today. I felt the experience that we can create with music would accentuate the experience of watching a silent movie". "And yes, there are records that some of the ragas existed then. But I moved beyond that," she said. Anoushka says she was conscious about her role as a composer and often kept the instrumentalist in her in control. But that affected the background score of "Shiraz" initially.
"I was so aware that the music should not just be about the sitar, so I ended up putting really little portions of it. When my husband (filmmaker Joe Wright) heard the score, he said he could barely hear the sitar. So I went back and added some sitar to it."
The daughter of legendary sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar said she had no problems coping with the pressure of working on her first film score. "Any big piece of work brings with it a great amount of responsibility. I obviously have been working under pressure the whole of my career. So I am accustomed to that," said Anoushka.



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