We first heard of Gingger Shankar because she’s the only women in the world playing the double violin. Then, we learned she also started her own music production company, working on projects for companies including HBO, CBS Sports, AFI, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the World Economic Forum.
Her talent and drive make sense, seeing as how she also comes from a line of women responsible for breaking cultural barriers and bringing Indian music to the West during the 1970s. This Embodied Achiever has a lot of wisdom about the music industry, and what it looks like to be a woman in any male-dominated field, so keep reading below to learn more about her story.
Darling Magazine: Tell us a bit about your musical background.
Gingger: I was raised in a family of musicians. I grew up with music around me, it was part of my every day life. I went to a music and dance boarding school in India from the time I was very young and was always going to concerts. I started singing and playing the violin in Indian classical music as a teenager, then played with rock bands like the Smashing Pumpkins and performed in operas. All those experiences brought me to where I am now, finding my own voice, working on my own records and film scores.
Now, looking back, I realize how lucky I was. Running around the studio as a kid. Playing in the halls during soundchecks. Always being around music, rehearsals, shows, musicians. It definitely shaped who I am as an artist today.
DM: You are the only woman in the world who plays the double violin. Why is this such a rare skill for woman? What prompted you wanting to learn it?
Gingger: I took it up because I used to travel with a violin, viola and other string instruments and it is so hard to mic them all at festivals, not to mention traveling with so many instruments!
The double violin is an instrument that covers the entire orchestra range — violin, viola, bass, cello. There are only 2 in the world and I love the sound of it. It provides a tone and sound unlike any other instrument. Whether I am performing live or doing soundtracks, it gives me such a wide range of sounds to work with. The challenge is that so many people have never heard of it, but that is slowly changing.
DM: How have your grandmother and mother’s musical careers inspired you?
Gingger: My mother has been my biggest influence in music and in life. I think growing up, I knew them more as my “Mom who had 4 kids and 3 jobs” and my “Grandma who did some shows and traveled”. Only as an adult did I realize how extraordinary these women were.
How incredibly talented my mother was and how much promise she had, yet she sacrificed everything to support my dad’s career and to be a mother. How my grandmother became a musician and supported her entire family at a time when women didn’t do that sort of thing.
My mother and my grandmother always showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to. The words of wisdom were along the lines of, always carry forward, be grateful and never give up.
… always carry forward, be grateful and never give up.
DM: In such a creative and musically-saturated city like LA, how have you distinguished your production company, Little Girl and the Robot, so successfully?
Gingger: I think it’s all about strong relationships. We have such a great group of musicians, composers and sound designers and we LOVE what we do! We have also had the chance to work on some really fantastic films and commercials, so we have built a strong reputation in the community. We’ve been very lucky with the filmmakers and companies that we work with, because we get the freedom to create music and sound that we are really proud of!
DM: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in getting your company off the ground? How have such challenges made you a better businesswoman?
Gingger: The biggest challenge, unfortunately, has been being a woman. It takes a lot more to get in the door at times, to prove that you can run a business and have a team of people working on a project. It’s been a good challenge for me. I have taken on the role of going into as many meetings as I can in person to talk about projects, my team and our work. It’s never something I had to do as an artist, but it has taught me a lot! No one can talk about what you do better than you can!
DM: Are opportunities for women in music production on the rise? Where and how do you see women thriving in this industry?
Gingger: It definitely isn’t an even playing field in music production, but I definitely know a lot of extremely talented women composers! I think it’s like any other field in the film industry — people are starting to talk about the lack of women in these roles, and hopefully it starts changing!
DM: What upcoming project are you most excited about?
Gingger: The project I am super excited about is my new multimedia project with collaborators Dave Liang (Shanghai Restoration Project) and Sun Yunfan called Nari. Nari is the unsung story of the lives of my grandmother, Lakshmi Shankar, and my mother, Viji, two extraordinary artists who helped bring Indian music to the West in the 1970s through their close collaborations with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison.
It is obviously a deeply personal project that we have been working on it for a few years now, filming and recording all over the world. It will have its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month!
DM: What would you say to a woman right now who is considering giving up on her dream?
Gingger: Never give up. Women are strong. Women are resilient. We have the power to change things. We have the power to create anything. Never give up.
Images via Cameron Jordan and Karolina Markiewicz