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Global sitar star Anoushka Shankar in tune with festival’s peace message

THE HYPNOTISING sound of the sitar will be creating a buzz at an international festival when seven times Grammy nominee Anoushka Shankar performs in Wales for the very first time.

Shankar will be taking centre stage at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod at 8pm on Friday, July 8, and tickets are on sale now as the event prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

She was taught how to play the instrument by her father, the legendary musician Ravi Shankar, who performed with The Beatles.

Father and daughter worked together with George Harrison to create the landmark album, Chants of India, but Anoushka has carved out a remarkable career in world music in her own right.

The English-Indian-American musician has collaborated with artists including Sting, Herbie Hancock, Jeff Beck and her half-sister, Norah Jones.

She has performed at the BBC Proms and Glastonbury and has won legions of fans worldwide, but Llangollen Eisteddfod is her first appearance in Wales and she says she is very excited by the prospect.

After the Second World War, the original concept for Llangollen Eisteddfod was a musical event that could promote education and international peace and goodwill and these are ambitions close to Shankar’s heart.

She said: “My father, Ravi Shankar, had a core belief in the concept of peace through music and I was immersed from childhood in experiencing the transformative quality of music.

“It feels like society as a whole can forget how investing time, effort, money and energy into the arts actually brings about an ‘upliftment’ of society as a whole into connection and peace.”

Shankar has herself frequently performed at benefit concerts and in 2018 she embarked on a short US tour to help raise funds for the non-profit organisation, Help Refugees.

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More recently, she has turned her considerable talents to writing film scores, including the music for the series, A Suitable Boy, adapted from Vikram Seth’s novel, which won an Ivor Novello nomination.

“I am finding the idea of composing for visual mediums more interesting after a couple of decades of primarily touring and writing albums,” she said.

“It certainly draws a new and different audience but also requires something different of me as a musician which I find challenging and fulfilling.”

The Llangollen festival has become an established and much-loved home for world music, so Shankar’s appearance is a natural fit.

The evening programme celebrates her father’s legacy, as well as featuring orchestral arrangements of Anoushka’s own eclectic output.

She will join forces with Austrian percussionist, composer, Hang-player and Björk collaborator Manu Delago and the strings of the Britten Sinfonia, for an evening that promises to transport the audience on to a wild and mystical ride.

“Manu is one of my favourite collaborators,” said Shankar. “He’s a brilliant musician and also we wrote many songs together over the years, so getting to replay them with him now, years after we used to tour and play them together more frequently is a genuine treat.”

She says her music is always evolving and the audience at Llangollen can expect some new interpretations for her first Welsh performance.

“I can’t pick favourites but in context of Jules Buckley’s gorgeous arrangements for orchestra. I particularly love hearing this version of Land of Gold come to life,” Shankar added.

“It’s amazing hearing a song that started as a duo, then a song, grow across orchestral strings.”

The festival, which helped launch the careers of opera superstars Luciano Pavarotti and Sir Bryn Terfel, had to be cancelled in 2020 for the only time since its inauguration due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021 it took on a virtual format, with performances streamed online, but this year the music and dance extravaganza is back in the town where “Wales welcomes the world”.

Preparations are well under way for this year’s festival, which starts on Thursday, July 7 and culminates with Llanfest on Sunday, July 10, when the eisteddfod will join forces with the Llangollen Fringe Festival.

During the four-day event, there will be a host of new attractions and activities on the revamped outdoor site, including music, dance, talks, comedy, food, drink, shopping, workshops and pop-up entertainment.

The competitions will reach a crescendo on the Saturday night with ‘Choir of the World, and the contest for the Pendine International Voice of the Future, featuring the finest young singers from across the globe.

To buy tickets go to www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk/tickets_for_llangollen_eisteddfod/