Anoushka Shankar hears Europe`s refugees with sitar

Horrified by the suffering of the wave of refugees seeking shelter in Europe, the sitarist Anoushka Shankar has turned their plight into a musical journey.

New York: Horrified by the suffering of the wave of refugees seeking shelter in Europe, the sitarist Anoushka Shankar has turned their plight into a musical journey.
Shankar, backed by collaborators including the actress Vanessa Redgrave and the rapper M.I.A., has offered an interpretation of Europe`s migrant crisis on her latest album, "Land of Gold."

Yet the album is as much a personal reflection as a political statement. Shankar recorded the album soon after giving birth to her second child, Mohan, at a time when a historic number of people were entering Europe from violence-wracked Syria and other troubled nations.

"That incongruence of sitting in the safety of my own home being able to provide for my baby while seeing hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the most horrific situations of war, and so often being denied the basic right to safety after unimaginable journeys, that just felt so utterly heartbreaking," Shankar told AFP in New York as she started her global tour.

"Music is for me at least a way of responding to the world and processing my feelings, not always consciously," she said. 

The 34-year-old five-time Grammy nominee is the daughter of Ravi Shankar, the late Indian maestro who introduced classical sitar to a Western audience. 

Born in London, where she now lives, she was raised largely in Southern California with lengthy stints in India -- a cross-cultural background that gave her even more of a connection to the migration issue.

"It`s a bit like a really scary lottery," she said of her upbringing. 

I have the fortune of living in freedom and being able to grow up across cultures," she said. "My life is certainly a product of that. I believe in a cross-cultural world where we can respect each other and live with each other.

"It sounds crazy to even have to say that."Much as in classical Western music, traditional sitar pieces are by definition more abstract with no lyricism to hammer home messages. 

Yet Shankar, no stranger to fusion, also decided on more direct references on "Land of Gold," which was released on April 1.

M.I.A. and Redgrave, both known for political advocacy, each come in for one track, while longtime Bjork producer Matt Robertson offers further immediacy through a subtle electronic layer. 

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