Breathing Under Water (Mahattan Records/EMI, 2007)
The 25-year old Anoushka Shankar continues her explorations of Indian music and global sounds on Breathing Under Water, her latest album, recorded in a lively dialogue with global electronic wizard Karsh Kale. Thanks to her popularity and prestige, Anoushka Shankar was able to invite an impressive line-up of guests. In addition to her renowned father, Ravi Shankar, she is also joined by pop stars Sting and her sister Norah Jones, Indian electronica pioneers MIDIval PunditZ, as well as Bollywood soundtrack composer and keyboardist Salim Merchant and Vishwa Mohan Bhat.
Anoushka Shankar‘s evolution has taken her from Indian classical music to world music and now to pop. The opening song is the most commercial, with pop charts in mind. With the second track the album gets much better, heading into the world beat realm. Karsh Kale provides his characteristic electronic beats and guitar, which create the backdrop for Anoushka Shankar‘s extraordinary sitar. "With the sitar being such a distinctive instrument, it conveys so much to hear it travel through the range of musical styles and genres that it does on this record," says Anoushka. "One of the greatest aspects of creating this album, for me, was giving unabashedly full reign to my creative desires, pushing and being pushed far outside my comfort level, and working with people whose talents complemented my own to the point that I was able to give the best of myself as a producer, writer, and instrumentalist."
Pop icon Sting is no stranger to world music collaborations and his familiar vocals blend perfectly with the delightful sitar melodies.
Breathing Under Water shows another side of Anoushka Shankar. In addition to her role as sitarist and composer, she expands her responsibility to producer, keyboardist and lyricist. The songs on Breathing Under Wate were "conceived organically, written mainly on sitar and acoustic guitar before taking them in all different directions," Kale says. "There were two ways that we composed for the most part," Shankar adds. "Some songs came from an acoustic space, coming up with the melody and then orchestrating around it. And there were a few pieces like ‘Slither’ and ‘PD7,’ which we started creating and programming on the computer first, and layered on top of later."
According to Kale, Gaurav Raina, known for his groundbreaking work with electronica/raga fusionists MIDIval PunditZ (Six Degrees Records); and Salim Merchant, the two were a guiding force to the project. "They facilitated our ability to collaborate. They made it possible for us to throw things on the wall until they were sticking, without worrying about anything else."
"Travel is one thing that’s very common to the music–Anoushka’s and mine," says Kale. "It’s that feeling of being in-between places, of always moving. That’s how we made the album–going from Delhi to New York to California and Bombay, back to Delhi. I don’t think I’ve ever done an album in one city anyway." "This is where the water theme comes in. Travel inspires a lot of song and a lot of these songs are literally about being a traveler at sea."
"I’ve not really had this type of intense musical experience with anyone, other than my father," says Shankar. "To be creatively free with somebody else and trust them with your ideas before they’re already formed, that was very new to me, and it allowed both of us to do things we don’t usually do. I think the real surprise to most people on this album is that a lot of what we’re known for switched–a lot of the hardest, most rhythmic moments on the album came from me, and a lot of the prettier, melodic moments were from Karsh."
"But we’ve both been developing a personal style rooted in and influenced by Indian classical music and we’ve been friends for a number of years. That really broke down a lot of barriers that usually exist between musicians. Anoushka and I were also able to break each other down a bit. Instead of being too respectful with each other, sometimes we got at each other and challenged each other," says Kale.
"Being an Indian musician in the world we live in right now, when there’s the amount of fusion and crossover music that’s being made, it’s a challenge to find a genuine and sincere way of making these different sounds work together," says Shankar. "Our end goal with this record was to create an honest picture of how dynamic a world we live in, and how natural and beautiful it can be for seemingly-incongruous elements or ideas to co-exist."
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.