To Baapi,With Love

In her seventh studio album,sitar player Anoushka Shankar strings together 13 melodies,three of which feature singer Norah Jones,her half-sister.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: October 5, 2013 4:55 am

It was several weeks after Pandit Ravi Shankar’s passing that daughter Anoushka Shankar flew to New York to record with half-sister Norah Jones. She had penned few lyrics on the plane for Jones to improvise upon. But the moment Jones began creating the piano notes to come up with that perfect hook,it sounded distinctly similar to the music of Satyajit Ray’s masterpiece Pather Panchali,composed by Shankar. “Norah had never seen the film or heard Baapi (Shankar) play this. I am not a believer of coincidences,but this really was. And a beautiful one at that. It was inexplicable,” says Anoushka,in a telephone conversation from her home on London. The song isn’t one of those fusion concoctions we come across almost every day. It’s that moment which has been turned into a track titled Unsaid and is a part of Anoushka’s seventh studio album Traces of You (Universal Music),which releases on October 4.

Anoushka worked on this album in stages. The album began last summer,a time when she was enjoying motherhood,which was followed by her father’s illness and later his death. The 13-track album reflects the times she went through and is their musical interpretation.

Produced by multi-instrumentalist and ace musician Nitin Sawhney,the album featuring Jones on three songs comes across as one of the more intense and intimate one as compared to what one has seen of her music in the past. With Sawhney in the driver’s seat,Anoushka’s music comes to the fore in a natural,fluid way. The fact that Sawhney did not let her be,is what became an advantage for Anoushka. “He helped rein me in,” says Anoushka.

The title song Traces of You,based on the pentatonic raga Kaushiki,has Sawhney constantly playing the pancham swar,something not allowed in the raga. But Sawhney,on his guitar,constantly caresses the same pancham that hovers right next to the notes Anoushka touches upon. “We make sure we follow the rules. It is considered a more holistic approach in classical music. But what if one bent the rules and still made it sound wonderful?” she asks. While Anoushka enunciates the swaras,Jones punctuates it all with her lush jazz voice with Traces of you,linger like a teardrop/ My heart sings for you,play me like a tearcloud.

The video of the track on YouTube shows the two creating music in trance with images from Kolkata interplaying all along. Soon enough,it all sounds like a conversation between sisters,with a variety of notes finding a common language and becoming a giddy whirl. While the first collaboration between Anoushka and Norah in Breathing Underwater sounded just about alright — it was one of those getting to know each other’s music moment — this is more heartfelt and may touch those obscure nooks and crannies of one’s heart. Indian Summer is a soft track based on Raag Mishra Pilu and draws inspiration from the time she met director Joe Wright,who she later married,while In Jyoti’s Name is a dark melody and a dedication to Delhi gang rape victim. Fathers is an ode to Shankar and Sawhney’s fathers who passed away around the same time.

Anoushka has already begun touring with Traces of You and India will feature on her list in December,when she will perform in Delhi,Hyderabad and Mumbai.

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