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Interviews |  28 Feb 2009 14:24 |  By chiragsutar

Anoushka Shankar - "I am very old fashioned and romantic about albums"

Taking up where she left off last week, Anoushka Shankar speaks her mind on changing technology and the challenges facing the music industry in a free wheeling chat with Radioanmusic.com's Chirag Sutar. Read on...

Let's move to the digital revolution phase. How do you see this as a development?

I am very old fashioned and romantic about albums. I think there's a different way that you convey, express a story or vision or an entire journey through the course of the hours of music that you can't do if you are just releasing single tracks. I find it very sad that records are dying out because its going to be an end of way of making music that's being around for a century, and yet usually technology influences arts, and a new way of art is being born. I think people will look back and see that this is probably the beginning of a whole new era of music making and the beauty of it is more in a marketing sense because people now have so much of access to artistes and artistes have so much of access to listeners. It's a lovely thing to communicate directly. It's great that you can just make music, put it up and it reaches a person… that's wonderful … so there are two sides to it.

But there's one more side to it … Piracy!

Absolutely, and it's a horrible thing. First, we are not able to make money out of our albums anymore, and then you have online file sharing. That's what I feel when people frustrated with facilities like i-Tunes, where you can't transfer your music even for yourself. I think it's important they set those kind of boundaries because that's the only way to protect us – that's your work and livelihood.

I constantly find some content, some (of my) old piece online, in some country and that's a horrible feeling. It's definitely something which needs to be penalised quite strongly…

Please go on…

Sadly, in India, piracy is not new and it's 'not' because of technology. I have been going at the music store my whole life, for example, there might be 60 records of my father and 40 will be illegal and record companies don't pay royalties. We ourselves buy around 50 records to give to friends and families and the same year, we get a statement saying 'one record sold' (laughs)- we know that's not true. All these are issues that extend beyond technology…

What do you think about the 360 degree deal signing trend among artistes?

Once you are in the game, you are in the game. Once you want to sell the product, you have to sell it and find your way within the market – that's the way the world works right now.

I constantly fear this conspiracy theory that Apple will one day turn around and say, "By the way, we are not a technology label, we are an army and now we have taken you over (laughs)" ..

Today, you can have a phone, a TV and many such things by the same company... how is that possible? There are few people who own everything, and the same thing applies to the entertainment sector too – sadly. For me, my brain doesn't work out that way, so I don't know if I can even have an opinion, because it's all the way it is – that's my half diplomatic answer (laughs).

International musicians have expressed their concern over the Live Nation and Ticket Master Merger – they fear it will monopolise the global music scene leaving little for the listeners. What is your opinion?

It's tricky business, and it's not something that we can just sit and criticise because the economy is in such a dangerous situation. I am not a business minded person anyway… so I don't think I'll put down my opinion on this.

But overall, I think it's a very challenging time and as an artiste you are bit of a slut too. You are not just sitting in a room making music, you have a product to sell, you got to do the marketing things, you got to do what it takes to get your product out there in the markets if you believe in it – it's compromise, I guess. For me, I just try not to lose myself in all of it, you better stay clear on why you are doing it, keep the intentions clear and not get lost in all of this.

Recession as we know has also affected the music industry. As an artiste, has it affected you?

I am signed to EMI – It has affected to me the most!! (laughs). Well, it's tough because you want to play, you want to show your music to people, but unfortunately, your costs haven't been lowered – it still costs me the same or more to fly my musicians around, to pay them, to get them to the hotels, to get everything… but then, I am supposed to take a lower fee to do it, which means a lot of the times I am doing it just for the sake of music without earning a penny. It's sad, because this is my living.

But on second thoughts, musicians are not immune to what's going on to everyone in the world – thank God I am not in an office job! At least, I have got my niche where I am going to be the only one doing what I do. I might be suffering, but might not lose my job. So overall, I am lucky and I won't complain too much.

Do you think winning a Grammy is the ultimate thing for a musician?

Awards have some meanings... Yes, they help you in a professional sense and the Grammies are considered to be the equivalent of the Oscars – they are the premi?¨r music awards. But put in the right context, they are premi?¨r 'American' awards and there is no reason why they should be considered above any other award. For example, an Indian musician needn't win a Grammy to be considered 'better' in any way – but sadly, that is the way we look at it. So yes, it helps you professionally, gives you a status of some kind, but doesn't make you a better musician.

How important is it for you to pass on a music tradition to others?

Actually, this is something I have struggled with. I feel it's something 'essential' more than important. It's something which is part of our tradition, and yet it's something which carries so much of weight and responsibility – like taking on disciples, grooming and teaching them. I feel that is something I'll get to in my life – but I don't feel I am ready for it now.

I am a young musician, so I want to focus on my performance, be selfish, learn more, and perform more. Later, when I feel comfortable with the idea, I'll take on disciples, because I don't want to do it half way.