Indians who brought home Grammy Awards

Last week, two Indians artistes made the country proud at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards. While it was the second win for Bengaluru-based composer, Ricky Kej; former Mumbaikar Falguni Shah got her second nod and walked away with her first Grammy. Kej’s ‘Divine Tides’ – a collaboration with The Police’s drummer, Stewart Copeland – received the award for Best New Age Album. On the other hand, Shah’s ‘A Colourful World’, won in the Best Children’s Album category. This week, Music Plus goes back in time to celebrate Indians winning big at the Grammys. 

Pandit Ravi Shankar

Pandit Ravi Shankar was the first Indian to win a Grammy for ‘West Meets East’, the 1968 album with American violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. Throughout his career, Shankar went on to win the award five more times, including the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The jugalbandi in ‘West Meets East’ feels anachronistic, like it stands for the cultural zeitgeist of 60s America. When the violin mimics the sitar and vice versa, they reflect the fashionable surge of interest in paisley, baroque, spirituality, South Asian and Eastern instrumentation, and anti-war movements.     

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt

‘A Meeting By The River’ is both a song and the album that won guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt a Grammy in 1993. Bhatt created and recorded on a special instrument he pioneered, the Mohan Veena which is a hybrid between a guitar and a veena. With more than 14 strings, the instrument is played combining the technical traditions of the sarod, sitar and veena. Bhatt admitted that music was a universal language. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t quite sound like fusion music. 

Zakir Hussain

Nature, people, work, thoughts and feelings, our hearts, wherever there is flow, there is rhythm. The album, ‘Global Drum Project’, brought Ustad Zakir Hussain his first win, proving that there’s a communal aspect to rhythm as well. The world music album featured percussionists from all over the world, incorporating their different styles. It won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album of 1991, the first time the category debuted at the awards.

AR Rahman

The maestro won twice in the same year for his work on ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ taking home two Grammys: Best Song Written for Visual Media (with Tanvi Shah – the first Indian woman to win a Grammy, and legendary lyricist, Gulzar); and Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Visual Media. He has been responsible for bringing world renown to several prominent talents of the subcontinent. Although fans will recommend experiencing the true testament to Gulzar and Rahman’s extraordinary pairing, one has to listen to the songs of ‘Dil Se’ and ‘Saathiya’. And a better foreign tribute to them, and Rahman especially, exists in the form of a series of medleys performed by the students of Berklee School of Music.  

Neela Vaswani

Is there an inherent musicality to the spoken word? An audiobook, like music, can evoke several emotions. The intimacy of a voice and the directness of communication can bring great comfort in torrid times. Vaswani, an author, teacher and education activist, was surprised to find that a children’s book can be nominated for a Grammy. Vaswani won for her narration of the audio version of the book “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education And Changed The World”, by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Vaswani, told reporters that like Malala, she was proud to be spreading the message of resilience and the importance of education to young children.

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