About two decades ago, Anette Philip was a “burned out” full-time musician in Delhi when she decided to go to Boston’s Berklee College of Music because she felt she needed to learn more. Her parents weren’t thrilled. “So I made a deal,” she says with a chuckle. “That I would only go if there was a full scholarship. They agreed. I was there two years later. And it opened my eyes to different types of music and perspectives. I felt like I was growing and being exposed to other ideas outside of music too,” says Philip, who offered a faculty position after graduating from the prestigious college. Philip, who was given a blank canvas to work with, founded Berklee Indian Ensemble striving to create an open and inclusive space for musicians from around the world, coming with diverse influences, to study and explore the breadth of contemporary Indian music.
After numerous songs that have received a lot of attention and affection on social media, collaborations with artists such as Ustad Zakir Hussain, Shreya Ghoshal and Shankar Mahadevan, among other things, Philip’s ensemble has borne fruit in ways she could not have imagined. The ensemble’s debut, Shuruaat (which means beginning in Hindi) – which brings together 10 of their most coveted original collaborations – has found a nomination for the 65th Grammys, announced last night by the Recording Academy. While the album features collaborations with Hussain and Ghoshal, the other songs are tracks composed with Delhi-based duo Shadow and Light (Pavithra Chari and Anindo Bose), backing vocalist Vijay Prakash, vocalist Dhruv Goel and a significant track featuring Bangladeshi singer-songwriter Armeen is composed of Musa and her mother and eminent Nazrul Get exponent Nashid Kamal. The latter is the first-ever nomination for Bangladeshi musicians.
“So many dreams (11 years of hard work, sweat, lots of self-doubt, worries, excitement, exhaustion, crazy ideas, wild wins, aha moments, rebellion, risks, mistakes, laughter, love, insane amounts of music and one-pot dinners) that all come to fruition,” Phillip continued Facebook.
Berklee Indian Ensemble, alongside Nigerian musician Burna Boy (Love, Damini), African music star and five-time Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo and French trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf (Queen of Sheba), Japanese multi-instrumentalist Masa Takumi and Indian singer Anoushka Shankar (Between Us… (Live)), whose collaboration with Metropole Orkest & Jules Buckley Featuring hang drum expert Manu Delago is also in the running.
Between Us – Shankar’s latest project – features the sitar player’s compositions reinterpreted in a contemporary orchestral setting. Recorded during concerts in the Netherlands in 2018, the album has a variety of artists collaborating with her on the music of four of her previous solo albums – Rise (2005), Traces Of You (2013), Traveler (2015) and Land of Gold – work together (2016). Shankar will present the album on a three-city tour in India this year. What’s very interesting here is that a live album made the list.
Shankar is also nominated in the Best Global Music Performance category, this time for Udhero na, a collaboration with Arooj Aftab, Pakistan’s first female Grammy winner, who won the award last year for her reinterpretation of Mehdi Hassan and Hafeez Hoshiyarpuri’s famous Ghazal Mohabbat karne Whale. She faced a lot of criticism at the time for not mentioning the original artists in her acceptance speech and not giving any credit to Hassan.
Udhero na was a track that appeared on the deluxe edition of Aftab’s breakout album Vulture Prince. Mohabbat was part of the original album. Shankar fuses interludes she played in Bright Eyes – a deeply personal piece exploring infidelity and loss in Raag Bhairavi – with some new ideas. Aftab wrote the piece in 2005 with the lyrics Ye aine mein chehra mera toh nahi, tum hi dikhayi diye har jagah kahin. The piece describes a fleeting moment when a past relationship erupts in the mind and heart. While Aftab doesn’t do much with her voice here, singing in the regular monotonous space she does, Shankar shines along with a bunch of other musicians, creating a web of notes, a brilliant ambience that makes the track worth walking through.
Last year’s Grammy winner, lives in Bengaluru Ricky Key is also in the running for a third Grammy this year, but for the same album that was nominated last year. Winner of last year’s Grammy for Best New Age Album, Divine Tides (Lahiri Music), The Police drummer Stewart Copeland and Bangaluru-based musician Ricky Kej’s album is back in this year’s Nominated for Best Immersive Audio Album category, where immersive mix engineer Eric Schilling is nominated along with Copeland, Kej and Herbert Waltl – the immersive producers.
While pop queen Beyonce leads the field in the top categories with nine ways to take home the sacred gramophone, she is closely followed by Kendrick Lamar (eight nominations), Adele and Brandi Carlile (both with seven nominations each). The awards will be announced on February 5th and the ceremony will return to the Crypto.com Arena (formerly the Staples Center) where it has been held for years.