Hélène Grimaud, Sara Baras and Anoushka Shankar bring their talent to the UAE

Notoriously overlooked within the performing arts, this week will see the UAE welcome three distinct female trailblazing talents of their respective fields.

Hélène Grimaud. Mat Hennek
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The UAE will welcome three distinctively trailblazing female performers over the next few days: maverick pianist Hélène Grimaud, flamenco maestro Sara Baras and sitar player Anoushka Shankar.

In a world where women have historically been sidelined in the performing arts, this trinity of ­talent represents three inspirational figures at the forefront of their fields.

Grimaud appears on Monday, October 10 at Manarat Al Saadiyat, as part of the new Abu Dhabi Classics season. Baras will perform at Dubai Opera on Thursday, October 13 and Friday, October 14, followed by Shankar at the same venue on Saturday, October 15.

Hailing from three different countries and diverse backgrounds, each of these artists is rightly celebrated for the ­impacts they have made in their respective ­genres.

Grimaud has enjoyed widespread fame in the classical-­music field since breaking through as a teenager, recognised early on for her fresh and distinctive interpretative flair. After studying at the Conservatoire de Paris – earning first prize there in 1985, at the age of 16 – the wider public become aware of her two years later, when she performed alongside the Orchestre de Paris under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.

After making her name with a string of virtuoso releases enlivening the Romantic repertoire of Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven and – especially – Rachmaninoff, in recent years the 46-year-old has moved into more personal and conceptual territory.

In Abu Dhabi, she will present works from her latest release, ­Water, a collection of impressionistic musical meditations by composers including Berio Debussy and Fauré, about the liquid life force that makes up more than half of the human body. The album is punctuated by electronic "transitions" by producer Nitin Sawhney, and this – coupled with live-­performance "stunts" such as playing a piano sitting on a platform in the centre of a pool of water – has unsurprisingly ruffled a few of the stuffier feathers in critical circles. However, in this project her individual voice sounds louder and clearer than ever.

An equally personal inspiration is on display in Sara Baras's latest work, Voces. Subtitled Suite Flamenca, this dramatic dance spectacle was conceived as a tribute to her dance and music heroes, including Carmen Amaya, Antonio Gades and Paco de Lucia. Previous performances have featured portraits commemorating these figures at the rear of the stage.

While this nostalgic approach is less inventive than her earlier work, the fact that Baras is in a position to mount such a show is evidence of her feted position.

Ranked as one of the most famous flamenco stars in her native Spain, Baras, 45, began dancing at her mother's school at the age of 8. After a career-making stint in famed guitarist Manuel Morao's band, beginning in 1989, Baras broke out as a solo star and started her own dance company in 1997, presenting her first touring spectacle a year later. International notoriety was secured in 2000 when she performed in the smash-hit Hollywood movie ­Mission: ­Impossible II.

A similar parental inspiration can be found in the career of Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of legendary sitarist – and arguably the first superstar of “world music” – Ravi Shankar.

Her initial success was inevitably closely tied to her father – she started touring and recording at his side at the age of 10 and contributed to his landmark, George ­Harrison-produced best-seller, Chants of India, in 1997.

But after three early albums of classical music following her father's example – including 2001's Live at Carnegie Hall, for which she was the first woman and youngest-ever nominee in the Grammy's World Music category – in her mid-twenties Shankar took an abrupt left-turn with 2005's Rise, her first self-­produced, self-composed, non-classical album.

Combining elements of jazz, pop and world music, this set a cosmopolitan template for increasingly experimental and individual expressions, including a duet album with Asian underground icon Karsh Kale (2007's Breathing Under Water), a flamenco crossover (2011's Traveller), and her Nitin Sawhney collaboration (2013's Traces of You) – the missing link to Grimaud.

The experimentation only paused, briefly, with last year's Home, a return to classical traditions as a tribute to her father, who died in 2012.

Now 35 years old, Shankar's latest release – this year's Land of Gold, which she will perform in Dubai – is perhaps her most personal yet. Built around a core of her sitar, shehnai (Indian woodwind) and hang, and augmented liberally by electronica and cinematic strings, this largely instrumental offering – to which I gave a four-star review – is Shankar's emotional response to the refugee crisis that has rocked Europe. It is a universal statement that her late father would have no doubt supported, but here made in the younger Shankar's distinct, ­singular voice.

Hélène Grimaud is at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Monday, October 10; tickets from Dh250 at www.abudhabiclassics.ae. Sara Baras is at Dubai Opera on Thursday, October 13 and Friday, October 14 and Anoushka Shankar at the same venue on Saturday, October 15, tickets for both start at Dh250 from www.dubaiopera.com

rgarratt@thenational.ae