In the end of January, 2016, I got to accompany my mother and friends to Sundance with an incredible project about my grandmother and great grandmother, called Nari. My grandmother, Viji, and my great grandmother, Lakshmi were amazing singers who toured with my great grand uncle Ravi Shankar and his dear friend George Harrison, but despite being in the front at every concert and on the front of every album cover, they never got much credit.
My grandmother passed away due to cancer 1995 and I have only been able to know her through pictures and from these beautiful recordings of hers from when she was 19. She had the voice of an angel, as beautiful, if not even more gorgeous than somebody like Josephine Baker or Billie Holiday. I admire her talent and her angel-like voice. My great grandmother, who I was lucky enough to know as I grew up, passed away at the end of 2013.
The project also involves my mother, Gingger Shankar, playing double violin while my grandmother's recording play in the background. It is an extremely emotional yet extraordinary project and both shows went very well at Sundance.
It was such an inspiring, amazing week at the snow white film festival, I was ready to write a book and about six more albums by the end of it!
I was very sick Saturday, the day I flew in and didn't leave the cabin the first day. The first event I went to was a Film & Music event on Sunday night. There were many awesome musicians, performers and composers performing that night, but the performer that stood out the most was the first performer Jack Garrat. He was able to sing, shred on the guitar, use a synth pad and trigger different sounds all in one song and by himself. He was a one man show and he had a high range along with a great voice. You could tell he had an intense passion for performing and for his music up there too.
The next morning, my mom and I attended a Women in Film brunch with some stunning female speakers in the industry such as Elizabeth Banks and Effie Brown. Elizabeth Banks talked about coming up in the industry as an actor and how there were no female role models. She always looked around and saw that the men were higher paid and in many ways, in higher power. She wanted to be the next Steven Spielburg or Clint Eastwood. She always wondered why she wasn't making the same as the men she was on set with. Did she not work as hard as them? No, it wasn't that at all. That was just the way the industry worked, unfortunately. Little girls should have female role models. They should be able to say "I want to be the next Liz Banks" or the next "Effie Brown" and it's our jobs to make that happen. As Effie Brown said, we need to do three things for women in this industry. Invest, Hire and Mentor. If you don't have the means to hire a women or invest in one, then mentor her. There are many ways you can do these things. This brunch of incredibly inspiring to me, especially as a girl in the music industry. I am lucky I am usually around good people who are not sexist or bias, but I have been told before that women singers/musicians are not the same and can not equal up to men singers/musicians and that is something I am calling bullshit on and I want everyone to see and to hear that.
After the brunch, I went to a BMI panel with my mom and some of her composer friends and got to hang out with some more awesome people. It was a bit long, but some of the composers were quite entertaining through it.
When we were walking after the panel to some party, I was stopped to do an interview for Sundance TV. I wasn't going to do it, but everyone was pushing me to do it, so I thought it would be a cool idea and agreed. I followed the girls who stopped us. The interviewer was a cute little blonde girl with glasses and very nice. She introduced herself and asked if I wanted to be interviewed alone or if I would like anyone to join me. When I turned around, my group of family and friends had already left me to go stand on the other side of the cameras, taking pictures and pretending like they didn't know me. It was an odd but fun interview. I accidentally insulted Ben Affleck by calling him a douche bag during the interview. They had to edit that out. Oops... At the end of it, the interviewer and I were told to walk like zombies on camera, and then I had to sign a release form so they could use the footage.
That night, we went to the New Frontiers Donor Dinner. I got to meet Joseph Gordon Levitt, who I've been a fan of for a long time. He created an awesome website a few years back called Hitrecord where artists collaborate with other artists and try to create bigger projects with each other by adding to or remixing the work of others. He was beyond charming and just lovely all around. It was a pleasure speaking with him.
The performance of Nari was spectacular. Everyone loved it and between my mom Gingger Shankar and her musician friends Pirashanna Thevarajah and Vivek Maddala, the musical act was one in a million and everyone just loved it. They were marvelous trio. The visuals done by Nicholas Bruckman featuring pictures of my stunning grandmother and great grandmother with George Harrison and on stage were the icing on the multi-layered cake.
The entire week was a blast, we got to spend time with friends we don't necessarily get to see too often, we met a ton of creative, intelligent people, we went to fun parties an took horrible (or AWESOME) pictures...
And the last night, we went to see part of a new music series for PBS and BBC called The American Epic and we saw Jack White, who is involved with the series, speak after, along with a great musical performance by Taj Mahal and The Avett Brothers. The week was ended with on inspiring and jaw dropping note and as I said in the beginning, I am now ready to write a book along with six more albums!!!! :) This Sundance was a fantastic one and a great way to start off the year and thank you to everyone who made it as wonderful as it was. :)