My Heart Sings For You
October 25, 2013 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Around the time Ravi Shankar passed in December of last year (previously) his daughters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones were working on collaborative tracks for a new album with producer Nitin Sawhney. While the project, which was half way finished at the time, was conceived and planned some time before Ravi Shankar's passing it comes as no surprise that many of the tracks became infused, shaped and sometimes entirely transformed by the immediacy of their experience of the loss of their father. Emotions of sadness, loss and reconciliation run deep within some of the recordings. The album's title track "Traces Of You" is a filigrane dew sprinkled spiderweb gently spun from interlacing threads of melody and texture. An incredibly tender expression of what happens when the raw pain of grief is transformed into the bittersweet melancholy of memories, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Among the album's 13 tracks are 3 collaborations by Anoushka and Norah. The first, "The Sun Won't Set" (sorry, no link available) is a play on their father's name, Ravi, which in Sanskrit means "sun". The second is the albumn's title track "Traces Of You" described and linked above the fold. The third and last is the album's closing track "Unsaid" which was written by Anoushka during a sleepless flight to New York a few weeks after Ravi's death. Anoushka's choice of Nitin Sawhney as producer can be felt throughout the entirety of the album in the tightness and delicacy of the tracks.

This is only the second time Anoushka and Norah have collaborated. The first time they wrote and recorded music together was for the track "Easy", which was released on Anoushka's album "Swimming Under Water" in 2007. Here is an NPR interview with Anoushka (transcript) talking briefly about the new album and about collaborating with her half-sister.

Due to their father's complex life and personal relationships the relationship between the two half-sisters got off to a late and somewhat complex start itself.
Norah, Ravi's daughter from an affair with concert producer Sue Jones, knew her dad but did not really know much about who he was as a musician and person of fame until around age 10 while Anoushka, Ravi's daughter from Sukanja Rajan, who would eventually become his second wife, grew up in a much closer relationship with him. Anoushka began training on the sitar under her father's tutelage at age 9 and quickly became proficient enough to begin touring with him at age 14. Here are a 90 year old Ravi and his daughter at a much later date demonstrating a master class on sitar patterns vocalized by Ravi and executed by Anoushka, perhaps reliving some of their better memories.
Norah eventually found out that she had a half-sister and the two of them finally met for the first time when Anoushka and Norah were 16 and 18 years old. Around the same time Norah also began to reconnect to her father whom she had not seen for almost 9 years. Two years earlier Norah had officially changed her name, with her parents' consent, from Geetali Norah Jones Shankar to just Norah Jones.
The complex, entangled and emotional history of her and Anoushka's families combined with the big shadow cast by her famous father likely explains why Norah would not talk much about him while she was trying to build and establish her musical career. But over time the half-sisters began to grow closer and simultaneously Norah began the slow process of reconciling with her father. Here she is talking about him in an interview on 60 Minutes back in February of 2007.

While this post is mostly about Anoushka and Norah and their latest album it is clear that the magic of "Traces Of You" also owes much to Nitin Sawhneys sensibilities and talents. Nitin is a British producer of Indian descent who has released a number of albums under his own name. His albums such as "Beyond Skin" and especially "Philtre" feature tracks forming a bewildering array of very different styles and genres and yet there seems to be a seamless flow if listened to in sequence. Nitin's albums are usually found in the Electronic and Trip Hop sections and a lot of his tracks and methods justify this, but his work does include everything from hip hop to funk to jazz to flamenco to traditional Indian music. However, as varied as his work is there is always a consistency of tightness of production, a certain delicacy in execution and a tangible thoughtfulness that informs most of his work.

Here's the tracks linked in this post one more time as well as a few more interesting tracks involving Anoushka, Norah and Nitin:

From The Post
Anoushka Shankar:
Norah Jones:
Nitin Sawhney:
posted by Hairy Lobster (8 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Posting this here since it is not directly related to this new album release and its story but of general interest with regards to Anoushka and her own personal story:

Back in February she decided to join and support the One Billion Rising protest movement around the world and specifically in India, which emerged following the gang-rape and death of a female medical student by 6 drunken men on a bus late last year, by releasing a video message in which she spoke publicly for the first time about the sexual and emotional abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of a trusted family friend.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2013

Thanks for posting this. I was curious about the sisters' relationship and longing for something that was decidedly different from Norah's last album, so this was perfect.
posted by thorny at 1:38 PM on October 25, 2013

Thank you so much for this. Over the last two weeks, I've been helping a dear family through an extraordinarily difficult time. After a sudden fall, a short time of hope & recovery, followed by a week on hospice, their mother passed away this afternoon. I got the news right as I was loading Metafilter and through tear filled eyes blindly clicked on the "Traces of You" link. I know it's just coincidence, but it was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment.
posted by imbri at 2:21 PM on October 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

om mani padme hung up the phone and poured myself a drink.
posted by eggtooth at 3:04 PM on October 25, 2013

I was unaware that Ravi Shankar had died, and also had no idea Norah Jones was his daughter. So, mind somewhat blown. I guess I don't keep up with music the way I used to, nor news in general, which is mostly alright except when something like this comes up and suddenly I feel like I've been "living under a rock," as the kids say.

Anyway, thanks for the post with all the extensive info and listening material. Seems I have some catching up to do.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:29 PM on October 25, 2013

Wow, great post. I didn't know about this album.
posted by Loudmax at 6:23 PM on October 25, 2013

I have not heard of ravi shankar in a long while but it was a revelation in the 70s when he introduced the western audience to indian music during the woodstock festival in 69. these days I mostly listen to sufi oriented indian music by the likes of nusrat fateh ali. he's more of a vocalist than an instrumentalist but the soul is the same.
posted by souleye at 8:31 PM on October 25, 2013

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