Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


Anoushka Shankar is the daughter and protege of the renowned Indian sitar player, Ravi Shankar. She's carrying on his tradition of taking Indian classical music to the West, but with her own twist. On her latest album, she travels back in time to make the connections between India and Spain.

NPR's Bilal Qureshi reports.

BILAL QURESHI, BYLINE: Anoushka Shankar took the stage at an industrial Berlin nightclub late one Tuesday night.


QURESHI: Not where one expects to find the sitar. But Anoushka Shankar loves clubs, and she loves electronic music.


QURESHI: On previous albums, she's often pushed her classical training into slithering digital soundscapes.

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: I do think evolution is an important aspect to a tradition remaining alive. I think if it freezes and remains very static in its form, then it might not necessarily continue to remain relevant to people in ensuing generations. And so, a natural evolution has to occur.

QURESHI: On her latest album, the 30-year-old Shankar moves her Sitar out of urban lounges and into the winding alleys of Andalusia, in search of the musical and historical ties between India and Spain.


SHANKAR: There's a very primal, emotional response that I think I feel when I hear flamenco. It's quite in the belly, in a way.


QURESHI: There's a reason she feels that connection. Flamenco traces its roots to the music of India, in the traveling communities who moved across South Asia and the Middle East, settling in Europe.

Sonia Seeman is an ethnomusicologist at the University of Texas.

SONIA SEEMAN: We tend to over-privilege this period as being unique in terms of globalization, but that was a period of incredibly dramatic exchanges. There were groups arriving in Spain in about 1425. And, you know, the 15th century was a period in Europe in which great prestige was given to travelers. Pilgrims, in particular, were considered to be sacred guests and were often given not only safe passage but food and places to stay.

QURESHI: And, of course, they brought their music.


QURESHI: As a result, there are technical links between Spanish and Indian music: the use of certain rhythmic cycles, the complex interplay of vocals and strings. And as Anoushka Shankar explains, something deeper.

SHANKAR: It is that kind of space, that little space of longing, whether it is in something like romantic love, or whether it's in something like divine love. You know, that kind of search for something that's not quite in your grasp. It's a very powerful place to explore as an artist, because it's not necessarily sad. It can be a joy and, at the same time, it's got this pang that is something that kind of brings alive what you're playing. And it's something that the listener then connects to.


QURESHI: Anoushka Shankar is careful to call "Traveler," not just an album, but a musical project. These are original compositions, worked out during months of experimentation in Madrid and still being worked out in concert performances.


QURESHI: Some of these experiments are more successful than others. And as Shankar says, her favorite piece is not a blending at all, just a simple back and forth duet between her and flamenco guitarist, Pepe Habichuela.


SHANKAR: We were having a hard time trying to figure out what to do together. And we were going through lots of different forms of both Indian music and flamenco music. And we kept running into that eventual wall of one of us having to break the other form, in order to play, freely, what we wanted to play. And after much experimentation, we found a very old form called a granaina, in flamenco.

And we tried it in a few different scales and discovered that there was one particular raga, called manch ko manch(ph), that I could play very freely. And so, he was able to play a purely a granaina form while I was able to play a pure a raga manch ko manch. And yet, together it sounds like a very cohesive piece of music. And I think that's really beautiful to me, to see the two traditions could actually be so symbiotic.


QURESHI: Anoushka Shankar's father brought Indian music to the West through his collaborations with classical and jazz musicians and, of course, through his associations with the Beatles. But Anoushka Shankar says she is a little wary of sharing her own experiments with her 92-year-old father.

SHANKAR: He could even just twitch a smile and make a slight frown, and that's going to totally going to send me running into, you know, circles of oh, I need to change it, it's not good enough.

QURESHI: But both Anoushka and Ravi Shankar are each carrying on a centuries-old tradition in their own way.

SHANKAR: I do feel a commitment to this art form and to my father's teaching, and I think the older I get I'm feeling that more and more strongly. It's not just in of itself having learned from my father, who is the greatest living exponent of this musical style, but it's also the fact that it is an oral tradition that is, only, generally, passed on in that manner.

And so, without the people who continue to perform it and continue to share it, it dies. And so, in that sense, as well, I feel a great sense of wanting to share the music with people and wanting to push it forward.

QURESHI: And that movement of music, across nations and time, is what Anoushka Shankar's latest album is all about.

Bilal Qureshi, NPR News.


NEARY: You can hear songs from "Traveler" at

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.


Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.