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POIGNANT SONG: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF LAKSHMI SHANKAR

— JASMEEN DUGAL

'I have fond memories of accompanying her on the tanpura, recording her for my dad's eightieth birthday celebration.  Other than my father, she is the only person Ive ever played the tanpura for. Lakshmi Aunty's music was so unique…she endeared herself to people all around the world with her beautiful renditions.'

                                                                                                         – Anoushka Shankar

 

Dancer, playback singer, classical singer — Lakshmi Shankar was all of this and more. Her professional journey began in Uday Shankar's troupe. While she had achieved a reputation as a performer of khayal and thumri, her artistry of classical music shone through after a health setback cut short her dance career. Apart from solos, she sang for brother-in-law Ravi Shankar's cross-cultural projects, including 'I Am Missing You', produced by The Beatles' George Harrison. In this book, the author, who has known her since childhood, traces Lakshmi's journey that culminated in a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album. However, for Lakshmi, it was giving voice to one of Mahatma Gandhi's bhajans, 'Vaishnav jan toh', for Richard Attenborough's 'Gandhi' that was a milestone.

 

''Lakshmi's soulful singing expresses the immense outpouring of love, devotion and sadness felt by millions at the loss of the Mahatma. 'My God. I can't believe I'm singing there!' Lakshmi wonders as she stares at the screen while hearing her voice echo through the movie theatre…'' expresses the author who reveals she was drawn towards telling Lakshmi Shankar's life story for a few reasons. ''First, I believe she provides a perspective on the journey of Indian music to the West that has yet to be heard — of a female Indian musician who was part of the movement… Second, while most artists focus on cultivating one art form over their lifetime, Lakshmi was forced to reinvent herself from an accomplished dancer to an actress to a singer of North Indian classical music… while Lakshmi eventually found success as an artist and happiness through her family, she faced many personal challenges and endured tragedies… There is much to be gleaned from observing how an artist, beloved by the public and appreciated by critics, navigates not just the phenomenal highs, but also the unimaginable lows dealt by fate.''

 

Expansively researched, with anecdotes by Lakshmi Shankar, 'Poignant Song' explores the journey of Indian music to the West, through the life of an acclaimed artist. As a reader, I was fascinated by her passion, indefatigable attitude and determination to pursue classical dance and music, and the influence she continues to have on music luminaries today. ''Lakshmi's personal and professional impact as an Indian female musician was perhaps felt most profoundly by two female musicians who emerged from her family: granddaughter Gingger Shankar and niece Anoushka Shankar. The story is primarily told through the lens of important relationships in the singer's life. '''It impacts everything I do. I channel her and my mother every time I wonder if I can do something, if I'll be able to break that door down. She did it her whole life — with grace, with dignity and very little fanfare. She fought so hard, it would be insulting if we didn't carry that on. My strength comes from their struggles and I think that will keep getting passed on to the next generations''' Gingger reminisces. And, despite its exuberant tone, 'Poignant Song' does not sugarcoat the icon's struggles. The biography sends a message to live the dream, against all odds.
 

 

POIGNANT SONG: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF LAKSHMI SHANKAR

AUTHOR: KAVITA DAS

Publisher: Harper Collins

INR 399

 

POIGNANT SONG
Poignant Song
 
03-JULY-2019
 
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