"A vivid return" – CLASH
"Virtuoso sitar player" – GUARDIAN
ANOUSHKA SHANKAR RELEASES DEBUT MERCURY KX EP ‘LOVE LETTERS'
Six-time Grammy® Award-nominated sitarist, composer and producer Anoushka Shankar releases her debut Mercury KX EP, ‘Love Letters', out on 7th February.
‘Love Letters' marks a different direction for the internationally celebrated artist; it offers a shift in intimacy and content and comes at a pivotal time in her career as she signs to her new record label, Mercury KX. Hailed by the Guardian as a "virtuoso sitar player", Anoushka truly pushes the boundaries of how the instrument is heard and perceived and "uses it as a vehicle for creativity" (Times).
Love Letters documents a time of profound flux for Anoushka: health issues, heartbreak, domestic upheaval – "These were difficult times, which pushed me into some very vulnerable places. I've written from a personal place before, of course, but there was something particularly tender about the process this time, and it was a creative challenge to be brave enough to allow the music to remain as raw as it began" she says.
Writing and recording Love Letters has been an exercise in catharsis for Shankar, a "gentle, organic process" that saw her collaborating almost exclusively with female peers. During the toughest parts of that 2018-2019 period, Shankar found the practical and emotional support that her friends, fellow artists and performers offered became, quite naturally, artistic in nature.
A rotating cast of vocalists, musicians and producers, with Alev Lenz as the principal collaborator, would turn up for emotional support and talks that evolved into song-writing sessions: informal workshops sandwiched between school runs and spent crossed legged on Shankar's living room floor. "I really got to experience the way women show up for each other when crisis strikes. There was this sweetness; I felt very held throughout this process, and that's really where the music came from – the shared experience of women, holding my hand and helping me find a safe place to put some of my feelings."
Alongside Alev, a host of trail-blazing women feature on ‘Love Letters' including twin sister vocal duo Ibeyi, singer and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, renowned Indian singer Shilpa Rao, Brooklyn-based mastering engineer Heba Kadry (Björk, Slowdive) and British audio mastering engineer Mandy Parnell (Aphex Twin, The XX).
A singular figure in the progressive world music scene, Anoushka's dynamic and spiritual musicality has garnered several prestigious accolades, including six Grammy® Award nominations, recognition as the youngest – and first female – recipient of a British House of Commons Shield, and a Songlines Best Artist Award.
Besides performing as a solo sitarist, Anoushka's compositional work has led to cross-cultural collaborations with artists such as Sting, M.I.A, Herbie Hancock, Pepe Habichuela, Karsh Kale, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Joshua Bell, demonstrating the versatility of the sitar across all musical genres. Anoushka has also begun to compose for film, scoring the silent 1928 film Shiraz for the British Film Institute among other projects.
Ultimately, the collection of songs on Love Letters are about more than heartbreak or loss; they pull from various wellsprings – nostalgia, regret, pain, hope – and mark a quiet metamorphosis for the artist. "They're really about rising through the pain, rather than shutting down." And rise she has: 2020 will see Anoushka touring her new music, alongside special gala performances to commemorate the centenary of her late, legendary father Ravi Shankar's birth. Loves may come and go, change may be the only constant, but Anoushka's purpose as an artist, a campaigner and a survivor remain unshakeable.