Tull vs Shankar
Rising sitar star Anoushka Shankar on collaborating with Jethro Tull and being in awe of the band
Anoushka Shankar, who has collaborated with the likes of Sting on the latter’s Sacred Love and her latest album Breathing Under Water, will now feature as a special guest on Jethro Tull’s five-city tour of the country (Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Delhi) in November and December.
“Jethro Tull has been to India several times in the last few years. Each time someone got in touch to ask me if I could be involved in a series of duet concerts, but the timing was always off,” says Shankar, 25. But this time when Tull’s Indian promoter got in touch with Shankar well in advance, she “jumped at the chance to work with such a legendary band.” Shankar admits that while there’s an extent of awe involved, it’s in no way a fan club moment with Jethro Tull, which has earlier taken to stage with the likes of celebrated flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia. “I’ve been really lucky over the years to perform with legends across genres, from my father to Philip Glass, Jean-Pierre Rampal to Sting, and while I can feel incredibly fortunate, in that moment on stage it’s about musicians building off each other and taking a collective piece to new heights.”
The Brit band’s frontman Ian Anderson, says Shankar, is an anomaly in the world of music. “We have spent the last few months communicating and e-mailing musical ideas back and forth, and even without sitting down to play with him I can say he is quite unique. It’s rare to find anyone, especially at his level, who is so involved in the minutiae of the music.” Anderson, adds Shankar, is extremely involved in the smallest details of the tour and is dedicated to planning and rehearsing performance material. “From our first communication he was so aware of the logistics of playing these different music styles together, and I found the lack of the modern casual attitude of just jamming at the last minute and winging it so refreshing! He’s obviously a master improviser and improvisation will feature in the pieces we play, but I really respect a musician who puts in the kind of time and effort that he does.”
The two musicians are also collaborating together in the studio. “We have found ourselves discussing and drawing from folk ideas and Celtic melodies, which lend themselves quite well to the sitar and certain raga-patterns, and Ian has also gone through my records and picked out a couple of songs he feels will translate well for his band. You might also hear sitar on some familiar Tull tunes, which will be quite exciting for me so long as I can do those songs justice.”