Anoushka Shankar: On My Culture Radar

The musician on her father Ravi Shankar’s biography, Sally Mann’s photographs, and how Tara Brach’s podcast is keeping her calm

Anoushka Shankar has been listening to Tara Brach’s guided meditations.   Photograph: Laura Lewis

Anoushka Shankar has been listening to Tara Brach’s guided meditations. Photograph: Laura Lewis

 

Current favourite book

Indian Sun, an authorised biography on Ravi Shankar – obviously this is about my dad! This biography, written by Oliver Craske who helped my dad write his autobiography many years ago, has just been released. We had a huge array of events planned around my dad’s 100th birthday on April 7th but obviously all the performances are postponed or cancelled. Reading this book is helping me learn about my late father, and also connect to this time approaching his big birthday. 

Comedian

Hasan Minhaj. I love his show on Netflix and how he, like many comedians, can speak truth to power in such a biting way thanks to the cushioning of incredible humour. He has a warmth that I like as well, as it means I finish watching the show feeling hopeful rather than despondent. 

Play/musical

Cyrano de Bergerac at the London Playhouse. I loved the French film version starring Gerard Depardieu as a child, and I’ve had a soft spot for this story since. James McAvoy was astonishing in this production, with the electrifying energy of a caged animal. The script blew me away, all modern spoken word battling poetry, and so much wisdom and tenderness within the fiery delivery. 

Artist/designer

I recently saw some photos by Sally Mann from her Deep South series in the Hayward Gallery’s Amongst the Trees exhibit in London. The entire exhibition was so moving but these photos really stopped me. They were taken using 19th century photographic techniques and as a result have a surreal, unnerving quality, with each photo’s subject jumping forward. The trees seemed so present and alive, it was incredibly moving. 

Album

The Long Goodbye by Riz Ahmed. The premise is that it’s a breakup album, but the breakup is with his own country. It’s in context of being brown, Muslim, or minority in Brexit Britain. It says things I hadn’t even managed to make sense of or articulate within myself. The final track literally stopped me in the street – I needed to stand still and fully ingest every word.  

Also, Sixteen Oceans by Four Tet. I’ve been listening to it for the first days of isolation and it’s so expansive and healing. I listen on headphones and feel like I’m flying away from everything. 

City

London, 100 per cent. It’s where I was born and where I’ve lived for my first decade and most recent decade. I love the variances between areas. Just travelling half a mile can feel like going to a different place. There’s always a new small green space or restaurant to discover. My favourite spots include Sadler’s Wells for dance, Moro for dinner, Clissold Park for time out with the kids and The Bach in Shoreditch for a matcha latte or vegan bowl. 

Podcast

Tara Brach. Her guided meditations are simple and accessible, and I find her voice really calming. She has an episode out now called Facing Pandemic Fears with an Awake Heart.

Gadget

My Kindle. I’ve always been an avid reader, hiding under the duvet with a torch as a child and sometimes finishing a book a day. As laptops and smartphones evolved I lost reading for a little while, telling myself it was because of how much I travelled and how books took up too much space in my suitcase. Getting a Kindle brought back that freedom to read all the time, as it holds so many books. Nothing is the same as reading a physical book, but my Kindle means I’m still reading delicious epics even when I can’t carry heavy books. 

Social media profile

@brownhistory on Instagram. They post submissions from other people of photos and stories of their family members. They also post fascinating historical photos of South Asians around the world, for example of soldiers during the first World War or women who marched as Suffragettes. 

Love Letters is out now on Mercury KX

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