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Anouskha Shankar at the Proms

Shankar: New Explorations

Royal Albert Hall

Friday, 4 Sep 2020, 8.00 p.m

2020 is the centenary of the birth of Ravi Shankar. Before Covid put the mockers on things, there were plans galore to commemorate and celebrate that event worldwide. Anoushka Shankar’s post-lockdown debut takes place at the Proms. After time spent living by the lockdown clock, if there is one place and time for a musician to return to the London stage, then the Royal Albert Hall ought to rank high. New Explorations promises to be history-making, music being made without an audience in the building. The audience will be you and me listening to the live stream on BBC Radio 3 or watching on BBC Four that evening at 8.00 p.m. The Tuesday before the concert, Anoushka tweeted, “I am practically salivating with excitement at the chance to play live for you again.” 

Like turning a gemstone to reveal its facets in different lights, the evening will show off sitar in different settings. What are we getting? There is Anoushka’s improvised sitar coaxing out and responding to Gold Panda’s live electronics. He’s a multi-million viewed composer-electronic music producer whose ‘India Lately’, for example, took tanpura drone loops, record static and Hindustani classical vocals to new destinations. 

Anoushka has created fresh arrangements of her own compositions for the Britten Sinfonia strings and Manu Delago under the baton of conductor-arranger Jules Buckley. The Britten Sinfonia are old hands at the Proms with (admittedly biased selection here) collaborations on the Tribute to Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt with the Scottish guitarist Martin Taylor and composer-trumpeter Guy Barker (2012), Rufus Wainwright (2014), and the Proms’ revisiting Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar’s 1990 chamber music project Passages (2017). At the last of these Anoushka appeared. Manu Delago is her long-time rhythmist collaborator, a percussionist who has wedded the flying saucer-shaped idiophone known as the Hang to much of her fusion experimentation. 

What are we getting? We know Anoushka is recasting ‘Voice of the Moon’ from her album Rise, ‘Chasing’ from her Traces of You, and Manu Delago’s ‘Wandering Around’ is a fixture. Anoushka’s ‘Land of Gold’ – the title track of her 2014 masterpiece premised on migration and the human costs – is also in the repertoire. 

In September 1974 Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival from India made its public debut in the Royal Albert Hall. His daughter’s New Explorations brings a different Shankar caravan one generation on and the family name back to the venue for an evening dedicated to her father and musical guru.

With thanks to Alessia Avallone