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Anoushka Shankar Live at Koerner Hall – Toronto Live Review

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Anoushka Shankar Live at Koerner Hall – Toronto Live Review


Who: Anoushka Shankar
From: London, UK
Where: Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory, 273 Bloor Street West Toronto, ON M5S Canada
When: November 23, 2013, 8:00 PM

Anoushka assembled a very talented team on sage with Danny Keane on strings and keys, Tanya Wells on cello in addition to lending vocals, Pirashanna Tevarajah on mridangam and tabla, Sanjeev Shankar on shehnai (double-reed) and Manu Delago on hand drum and drumset. The team played to a packed hall on a extremely cold evening in downtown Toronto. The crowd was mixed, much like the artists Anoushka had assembled for this tour and the performance itself. Before the performance, the room was buzzing with fusion of Gujarati, Hindi and English.

Much has changed since the last time Anoushka Shankar played in Toronto almost 3 years ago. The most obvious thing missing at this performance was the presence of the godfather of world music, Ravi Shankar, also Anoushka’s father.  Anushka is the daughter of sitar legend Ravi Shankar, who died at 92 a year ago in December 2012. The duo played at Koerner Hall’s Grand Opening Festival in 2009 that met with shouts and applause, much like Anoushka’s recent performance.

The focus of this performance was her latest album, “Traces of You,”  which was produced by her dear friend, renowned word music composer Nitin Sawhney. Shankar, who primarily plays the sitar, is known for mixing Indian classical music with other forms of music. This compilation brings together a variety of sounds, fusing Eastern influences and instruments with western soundscapes.

The show opened with Matt Galloway, host of Metro Morning on CBC Radio 1, introducing Anushka in simple words:

“She is comfortable in her own skin and has no limitations to borders…” he said, referring to her bold music and social work that transcends all borders and boundaries.

Anoushka took the stage right away following short opening remarks and started the performance with the song, “Voice of the Moon”, from her 2005 album, Rise. The choice of an Indian raga based song makes me think that she was making a point that while she is known for mixing cross border music, her musical roots are in Indian Hindustani music.  Rest of the performance, primarily songs from her latest album, had elements of hindustani, jazz, pop, and pan-ethnic world music textures.  I was most looking forward to performances of  “The Sun Won’t Set”, “Unsaid” and “Traces of You”. While the performances by all artists on stage, including Anushka was almost impeccable, missing were original vocals from Norah Jones.  Tanya Wells tried her best but was no were close to the sophisticated intensity of Jones’s smoky vocals.

Performance of her “in Jyoti’s name”, a song tribute to Indian girl raped and killed in Delhi last year, got the crowd very emotional. I noticed my neighbour wipe a tear during the song.  After some classical performances that included quick syllabic vocal exchanges between Anoushka, Tevarajah and Sanjeev, the performance ended with “Chasing Shadows,” the longest number of the set.

The performances over all were elegant and soothing. The stage and the ambiance of Kerner Hall were in perfect sync with the performance. Tevarajah’s mridangam seemed to produce an odd sound and to my ear it sounded like technical issues with the microphone. While Ravi Shankar and Norah Jones’ presence were missed, the crowd felt, as I did, that we had just witnessed a brilliant performance and perfect blend of sitar with cello, mridanga, drums, shehnai and hang. She is surely carrying on the Hindustani music torch for Ravi Shankar through her unfettered technical prowess on sitar and championing the fusion world music genre –  certainly worthy of being called princess of world music in my books.

Shankar is married to British film director Joe Wright and lives with their son, Zubin, 2, in London, UK.

Review: Ashutosh Jha

Photos: Lisa Sakulensky Photography, courtesy of The Royal Conservatory


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