'We both are inspired by each other,’ says Shilpa Rao about Anoushka Shankar

Singer Shilpa Rao is on cloud nine as Anoushka Shankar’s album Love Letters has been nominated for the Best Global Music Album for this year’s Grammy Awards. The album features a song by Shilpa, titled ‘Those Words’. Though Shilpa is ‘thrilled’ with the nomination, she feels the need to do better, work wise. Praising Anoushka for her music aesthetics, she talks about the paradigm shift that has come in music albums, her collaboration with Anoushka on the EP and more. Excerpts from the interview:

How are you reacting to the development?

A lot of things happen to you which you’ve never dreamt of, but life is very kind. This is one of them. I'm ecstatic, but people around me, who have supported me throughout, are more thrilled than me. And, it's more pressure on me to work harder and I feel it from within.

How did the collaboration happen and the inspiration behind it?

Anouska and I, we both are little old school. We hung out at various music festivals and that’s when I met her, maybe around 2013. Since then, we kept in touch. I was in London two years back during a trip to Europe, and that’s where we both met up for lunch. We played each other’s music together and she had an idea that we should collaborate. A few months after I came back to Mumbai, she sent me an idea for the song and I loved it. I scooped in writer Shirin Anandita, who has been my friend for a long time. Then last year, when I was in London, we met again and brainstormed. The song talks about a woman who has come out of a relationship, but being a strong woman, she is not heartbroken, but is remembering the beautiful moments of the relationship. Coincidentally, everyone who has worked on the album is a female. So it's amazing how all of us came together to put up this project.

What makes Anoushkas album special?

She has a very good music aesthetic sense and that’s what drew me to her. Every musician has a technical sensibility and a music aesthetic sense. You cannot compromise on the latter and I felt very connected to her music aesthetics. There are some songs that you move away from as soon as they end, but there are some which stay with you. So, it was one of them. When I heard all the songs after the album was complete, I realised Anoushka has done some kind of storytelling, one track after the next. There is a paradigm shift now in albums, and a lot of people have been connecting one song to the next. It’s an experience now and with art, we are able to do that. That’s what ‘Love Letters’ is.

Did you speak with Anoushka after the nomination?

We have a WhatsApp group of all the artists from the album and we congratulated each other there. This is her seventh nomination for the Grammys, and I hope she wins it this time.

What was your equation with Anoushka before your collaboration?

We both are inspired by each other, that we had established the very first time we met. Like I had heard her music and she knew my music. The cupid in this situation is musician Karsh Kale, who introduced us to each other. We met as strangers, but we knew what our music aspirations were.

How was it to shoot the song during the lockdown?

We recorded the song last year in London. At that point, we were all together and recorded our parts one by one. The video we did during the lockdown from our own homes. We felt the need to do it all the more because of the situation the world is dealing with. We wanted to put out the message of love, irrespective. Specially, with the revolution that’s happening with women standing up for each other — be it against racism, gender inequality or abortion. With this track, we wanted to portray that we are in this together.

Whats coming up next?

There is another collaboration with band Yellow Diaries, it should be out soon. We had been working on it during the lockdown. There are a few songs lined up with Pritam, and my song ‘Hardum Humdum’ from ‘Ludo’ has been loved a lot. I thank everyone for making every effort that I have put in the music so large for me.

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