If women are not treated as equals, nothing about them will be prioritised: Anoushka Shankar

Anoushka Shankar Interview, Anoushka Shankar Tribute To Nirbhaya

“My life changed, indirectly but profoundly, as a result of what happened to Jyoti,” says Anoushka Shankar. She is one of the many women worldwide for whom Jyoti Singh or Nirbhaya’s rape and murder was a tipping point to talk about women’s safety, security and choice. 

Acclaimed sitar player, producer, film composer and activist Anoushka Shankar was recently in India for a three-city tour. This trip marked her return to India after a 2-year pandemic hiatus and coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Jyoti Singh’s rape and murder case. She told us that it had been a hectic trip; however, she was happy that she could “prioritise seeing people, reconnect with friends and family.”

SheThePeople got a chance to catch up with her.

Anoushka Shankar Interview

Shankar, who travels with her music around the globe, says Indian classical music has this fascinating duality. It’s seeped into history but is also very fresh at the moment because of the improvisatory quality. So, people can relate to that musicianship and energy across any border or knowledge of music. That has fascinated and pulled people over the last century around the world.

She says about touring and creating new music, “The stuff I am doing with my tours is very much in the new space. A lot of what I do comes from crossover music, whether collaborating with artists from different genres, playing with the orchestra, or creating bands and playing music in a different way.” 

On the influence of Indian classical music, she says, “For me, my years of training in Indian classical music are the roots of my musicianship. Even when my music moves very, very far away from there, it still has that within it because that is what shaped me.”

Shankar also released a reimagined version of her 2013 track In Jyoti’s Name from her album Traces Of You. It is a newly recorded – and substantially developed – version of a track originally released in 2013. ‘In Jyoti’s Name‘, included on Shankar’s ‘Traces Of You’ album. The new title reflects its significantly expanded horizons, and it acknowledges how little has changed in the decade since the atrocity that first provoked the song and headlines worldwide. Six months afterwards, in July 2013, the United Nations estimated that one in three women would be beaten or raped in her lifetime. Almost ten years on, that harrowing figure remains constant. ‘In Her Name’ now bears witness to the global ubiquity of violence and sexual violence against women, the policing of women’s bodies, and the increasing erosion of women’s rights in more insidious but no less dangerous manners throughout the world. ‘In Her Name’, features the renowned British-Indian poet, writer, playwright and illustrator Nikita Gill. 

Taking about putting the spotlight back on Jyoti Singh’s case for its first decade anniversary, Shankar says, “This is in terms of global context it is not just about Jyoti Singh but about everyone like her. So many more incidences, and we all feel the heartbreaking response when we hear about them. We can look at countries around the world and what is happening to women, being policed or monitored, and their bodies not being ultimately their own. It feels like an onslaught. This song marks the first decade anniversary of Jyoti Singh and questions why it is so hard for women to feel safe and free.”

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She adds, “If women are not treated as equals, then nothing about them will be prioritised the same way as others, which comes down to patriarchy.”

Shankar says to achieve your dreams, one needs “a combination of luck, fortune, opportunity, talent, and personal qualities like strength, stamina, dedication and focus.”