Preview: Anoushka Shankar, Jazz Café, London

The sitar star who has many faces
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The Independent Culture

Making appearances in front of two very different audiences on two successive nights, Anoushka Shankar is trying to keep two musical elements in balance. "The jazz audience relates immediately to the improvisatory side of my music," says this sitar star. "They relate primarily to the musicality, to the virtuosity of the artist. This I see as separate from the soundscape of the piece, the overall statement, which the Womad audience is more likely to appreciate."

She's just brought out a new album, Rise, which she regards as embodying both polarities. "Making this album has been a tussle," she says. "Between thinking in a linear way, and an overall way. Between thinking as a composer, and as an instrumentalist. Between showing off and letting it rest. Sometimes playing simply, or even not playing at all, is best. Electronic people are used to thinking in terms of ambience, and space - it might be just one line which is repeated again and again - while the classical people might find that very boring, as though nothing is happening."

She reckons she's reached a turning-point in her career: "I decided it was time that more of my likes and personality came out in my music. It's not that my music hasn't reflected me, but with the traditional Indian style there's a lot that can't get in. I want to branch out, and I love electronic music, which is now a big part of my life. In India people think I've left classical music, but I haven't - I still love it as much as ever. But I've grown up in three countries - England, then India, then California, and like my friends, many of whom are DJs, I've become eclectic."

Indeed she has: she's now busily guesting on a wide variety of artists' albums, including one by Sting, and she's working on a collaborative project she says she's not at liberty to describe, except to say it's highly experimental. "But my entire brain is still based on the traditional forms, even when I'm trying to play free."

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