Anoushka Shankar provided glimpses of her classical training and imaginative sitar play at a concert organised by The Hindu in the city recently

It was a concert with strings attached. Strings that are bound to a pristine legacy that celebrates classicism and is creatively liberating too.

Performing at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Anoushka Shankar struck an instant chord with the audience. For many of them it brought back memories of watching her inimitable father Pandit Ravi Shankar pluck and stroke the sitar strings to draw up exceptional swarupas of ragas, while for a few others it was the joy of listening to the virtuoso chip off that great old block.

Over the years, the graceful and charming daughter has put her hard training to good use with her cutting-edge experiments in soundscape. But at this recital she chose to nosedive into her father’s characteristic classical repertoire to come up with a slickly-structured presentation through which she explored her intrinsic links with Hindustani and Carnatic music.

She began with Puryadhanasri, an evening raga. After a short and pleasant alaap, the piece gained gradual pace and accelerated into a melodic frenzy. As her nimble fingers rapidly moved across strings, a flurry of notes and well-spun phrases emerged to prove the young sitarist’s ingenuity and improvisatory skills. The plaintive sound of Sanjeev Shankar’s shehnai (a student of Panditji) aroused the soul of the swaras, transporting the audience into a spiritual realm. On the tanpura was Kenji Ota, also a student of Panditji. Anoushka’s other staple jam session partners Tanmoy Bose on the tabla, Pirashanna Thevarajah on the mridangam and Ravichandra Kulur on the flute with their non-intrusive playing and lively interplay staged a delightful musical drama. The team often came together for impressively-structured crescendos and energetic solos.

Anoushka next moved to Charukesi and then to a Thyagaraj kriti. A piece she apparently learnt from her mother Sukanya who was sitting in the audience. Post-concert backstage, Sukanya was happy to accept compliments from listeners about her daughter’s efforts to take her legendary father’s work forward. “What can I say? It’s his blessing,” she said with both her hands pointing upwards.

Panditiji’s popular ‘Pancham Se Gara’ truly made for a grand finale. The composition that draws its essence from the vintage Gara raga had the classical and contemporary flavours beautifully woven into its texture. Its expansive grace showed Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sheer mastery over the art. And Anoushka engaged the audience by pulling the melody strings. Her decorative notes and flashy twists and bends constantly brought to the fore her lineage and her long tryst with the native instrument.

But one wished she strives to bring to her performances the tranquillity and meditativeness of Panditji’s music to be called her father’s daughter.