Review: Anoushka Shankar - Usher Hall, Edinburgh

ANOUSHKA SHANKAR’s latest project Traveller, which brings Indian music together with Spanish flamenco, was exciting from the opening moment.

While both traditions are linked historically by nomadic Roma gypsies, Shankar’s agile yet robust ensemble offered a thrilling contemporary take, searching for common ground while pushing creative possibilities.

As one of the few women playing the Indian sitar, Shankar showed just how ably she is following in the footsteps of her renowned father Ravi. She is a disarming figure: diminutive and exquisitely beautiful, she entered the stage bare foot, dressed in a pale, swirling dress evocative of the female figures depicted in Indian miniature paintings.

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The fragility of the princess-like aspects of her appearance was quickly dispelled, however, when she picked up her sitar to deliver cascades of sound from an instrument whose strings marry symphonic power with compelling tones and textures. Shankar’s play displayed tremendous strength and ingenuity while she simultaneously led the ensemble from the centre position with aplomb.

Her core team - Pirashanna Thevarajah on percussion and Sanjeev Shankar on the oboe-like shehnai - played with striking rapport too, matched by Spain’s El Pirañha on cajón percussion, flamenco guitarist Melon Jiménez and singer Sandra Carrasco.

Structured by evening ragas that were invigorating rather than soporific, improvisation and exchanges between all musicians kept one on the edge of one’s seat. The flow of pieces featuring material from Traveller balanced passion with oodles of musical ideas, imbued with freshness and buzzing energy.

RATING: ****