Music

Shine on, soldier: the sitar-soaked sounds of Rosie Henshaw

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The opening bars of Rosie Henshaw’s debut single Sunshine Soldier sound like the beginnings of a soundtrack to a Bollywood movie. There aren’t too many young women anywhere near the jazz-pop space that play sitar — not even that famous daughter of Ravi Shankar, Norah Jones. But Henshaw is a multi-instrumentalist, so, for example, you’ll see her playing electric bass in the official video for the song. On guitar, facepainted as some kind of sprite, you might recognise Banel Martinez from Gang of Brothers and Byron Mark on keyboards and percussion.

Henshaw radiates positive energy, so when she reflects that “across the page, letters are spread like sand; what you’re trying to say is that life has been hard on you,” you tend to nod in knowing agreement. At last, someone sees and understands your pain. And when she encourages you to “express your heart and let those words flow like water”, it’s better than therapy. She’s given you permission to open the floodgates, let the tears tumble out in a fitful, cathartic torrent, so that you, too can “come out of the dark” and become the sunshine soldier she exhorts you and us all to be.
Andro Martinez, wearing his producer’s hat, has brought finesse to Henshaw’s own sensitivity. It’s subtle, but even as she’s singing about that page, Byron Mark, by the sound of it, is gently crunching up a piece of paper, in the background. But it’s that simple, sweet, innocent sitar motif, hypnotic and childlike, in the way of a magical fairytale, that first induces the possibility of letting go of all that angst and beaming a big, broad smile out to the world. Rosie isn’t the only one who can do that, I suppose, but there are precious few who can. She’s like a down-under Dalai Lama, with much prettier hair.
So where did all this peace and harmony come from? Well, like most people, Rosie didn’t choose her family, let alone the places she was brought up. But unlike most, she had a classical singer for a mother, a funk aficionado for a father and was schooled in the Himalayas. Hence the sitar. She took up singing around the same time and by the ripe old age of seven, had already performed in front of audiences numbered in thousands. I guess that’s got to instil some equanimity, so, by thirteen, she was songwriting and accompanying herself on guitar. As you do.
If you’ve got the blues, are wound tight, or it’s just another, hot Sunday afternoon, Rosie Henshaw will bring you a tall glass of hand-squeezed lemonade, clinking with big blocks of ice. It tingles on the way down and is laced with just a little sugar. If we all responded to this recruitment drive, we’d never need a standing army. The world would be a peaceful place.

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