Anoushka Shankar to pay tribute on the 10th anniversary of Nirbhaya

New Delhi, Dec 17 (IANSlife) In addition to being a world-renowned musician, Anoushka Shankar is also an activist, producer, and film composer. Nikita Gill, a well-known British-Indian poet, playwright, writer, and illustrator, will be featured in Shankar’s new song, “In Her Name”, released soon on December 16, 2022, 10 years after the horrific event that served as its inspiration–the gang-rape of Jyoti Singh in New Delhi in 2012, which left her injured and dead 13 days later.

The song was debuted live for the first time on December 16, 2022, in Mumbai as part of Shankar’s first multi-city tour of India since the pandemic. This release follows Shankar’s nomination for Best Global Album at the Grammy Awards for “Between Us,” a live album featuring Manu Delago, Jules Buckley, and the Metropole Orchestra that was released by LEITER earlier this year. For their joint song, “Udhero Na,” from the Deluxe Edition of Arooj Aftab’s album “Vulture Prince,” Shankar and Aftab were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Global Performance. Now, Shankar has an astounding total of nine nominations during her career.

‘In Her Name’ is a newly recorded — and substantially developed — version of a track originally released in 2013 as ‘In Jyoti’s Name’, included on Shankar’s ‘Traces Of You’ album. The new title reflects its significantly expanded horizons, and acknowledges how little has changed in the decade since the atrocity that first provoked the song as well as headlines across the world. Six months afterwards, in July 2013, the UN estimated that one in three women would be beaten or raped in her lifetime. Almost 10 years on, that harrowing figure remains constant. ‘In Her Name’ now bears witness to the global ubiquity of violence and sexual violence against women, the policing of women’s bodies, and the increasing erosion of women’s rights in more insidious but no less dangerous manners throughout the world.

“One of the reasons I’ve come back to this song,” Shankar says, “is because of this endless wave of horrifying story after horrifying story, and each time there’s this wave of pain and grief: ‘When is it going to stop? When is enough enough?’ What happened to Jyoti should have been the last time anything like that ever happened. The song was about her, but now it’s also about everyone else like her.”

This, sadly, is a theme acutely close to Shankar’s heart. In 2013, in the wake of Jyoti’s tragic death, she recorded a message of support for ‘One Billion Rising’, a campaign whose very name highlights the number of women who will suffer sexual violence in their lifetime. The organisation’s founder, V (formerly known as Eve Ensler), asked her to tape a gesture of solidarity, and in her video Shankar chose to reveal that she, too, is a victim of abuse.

“There’s been a real change over the last decade,” she explains of her decision to open up, “but at that time there were very few people talking about this, especially where I come from. So it felt important to universalise it, to say it’s not a one-off, it’s not only in a certain demographic, to say that ‘If I’m not safe, no one’s safe’.”

This time, Shankar turned to Nikita Gill to help articulate her feelings, inviting her to contribute a text for the song’s middle section which could communicate the all-encompassing nature of this ongoing threat.

“She’s like a sister to me,” Shankar confides. “She’s one of the people I would have wept on the phone to when, for example, Sarah Everard died. She speaks from a very particular place culturally, as a modern, female, Indian-heritage poet, and that chimes with me, while sisterhood is also a very strong theme in her work. It was a very natural, obvious connection, and when I said ‘Would you please write something?’ she didn’t even wait for me to finish my sentence.”

Shankar delivers Gill’s lines in calm, collected fashion during a meditative musical passage midway through the song, enabling these powerful sentiments to strike with more force before its ultimate climax.

“Let our fury echo through the pages of history,” she recites firmly. “Do not let this death be quiet like all the thousands before it. Time cannot devour what we will not allow to be forgotten.”

Her accompaniment, meanwhile, conveys her anger in a similarly eloquent manner, especially in its repeated, syncopated phrases.

“There are different stages to the song,” Shankar elaborates, “but, though it’s not overtly raging, fury is a driving factor. Anger can often be stifled, especially in women, and yet it’s such a propelling force, a fire that generates an energy to create change, especially that feeling of collective fury that starts in my belly, that I feel in other women’s bellies too.”

Shankar selected additional partners with whom she shares a similar cultural background and aesthetic sensibility when it came to the song’s artwork and video. The cover image and bronze sculptures in the remarkable video, which was shot in London and Los Angeles and stars Indian-American Bharatanatyam dancer Mythili Prakash, were created by contemporary Indian artist Shilo Shiv Suleman, who co-founded the activist art collective Fearless Collective in 2012.

“Mythili and I have been close since childhood and have an ongoing artistic relationship. I trust her artistry implicitly, and I knew she could embody the song in a suitably sensitive but still striking manner,” Shankar adds.

“She brings forth unbelievable power, depth and nuance through her choreography and performance. Shilo and I connected more recently through other like-minded artists. Her work is deeply passionate and poetic and I’m so grateful to feature her powerful sculptures in the video. Crucially, Nikita, Mythili, Shilo and I all have a shared experience as women and particularly as Indian women, in how we were affected by what happened to Jyoti, whilst as artists, we speak a common language across our mediums that goes beyond our cultural roots but carries them at the core.”

Shankar recorded ‘In Her Name’ this autumn at London’s Guildhall, with regular collaborators Pirashanna Thevarajah adding mridangam, the south Indian double-headed drum, and Tom Farmer on bass.

“It’s a really interesting sonic space,” Shankar says.

“Having upright bass pulls the sitar out of a certain sound world that people are used to hearing it in, and yet the Indian percussion gives me the intricacy that I feel like I can really fly with. Both instruments add a primal and driving quality that feels essential to the song.”

The track represents the first studio music from Shankar since 2020’s ‘Love Letters’, though she’s currently working on a new album too. For the time being, however, she’s focussing her attention on ‘In Her Name’.

“Marking 10 years is very personal,” Shankar concludes.

“My life changed, indirectly but profoundly, as a result of what happened to Jyoti. She was the catalyst for me telling my story, setting me on a different tangent, publicly and privately. But this is more than that: it’s a remembrance. It’s about not forgetting, and about hope for change. Every time there’s a news cycle we talk about these stories, then put them down again, but change comes from truly remembering, and I am unwilling to ever let this go quiet again…”

(IANSlife can be contacted at ianslife@ians.in)

20221217-143403

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here