Review: 'Traces Of You,' By Anoushka Shankar

Oct 30, 2013

The name Shankar immediately conjures up memories of the great Ravi Shankar. The master sitar player inspired George Harrison’s foray into playing this complex instrument, leading to a keen interest in Indian classical music by Western audiences. He also inspired his daughter Anoushka to follow in his footsteps. Born in London, Anoushka Shankar spent her teenage years in California, and whilst there decided to become a professional musician. Meanwhile her half sister, two years her senior, Norah Jones (she officially changed her birth name in 1995) born in New York, grew up in Texas also decided to go down a musical path, as a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter.

The two sisters collaborate for the first time on the new album “Traces of You.” Anoushka was halfway through the recording of the project when Ravi Shankar died; the album is a tribute to him. The sisters also enlisted Nitin Sawhney, an immensely talented musician/producer born to Indian parents in England, to work on the album.

Norah sings on three of the thirteen tracks, including “Unsaid,” an especially poignant song, as for a large part of her life Norah and her father were estranged. One of the instrumentals--and possibly the most upbeat track--was composed by Nitin Sawhney, who was inspired by Ravi Shankar’s sitar playing. “Fathers” is a collaboration by Nitin and Anoushka, recorded as both of their fathers were dying at the same time. “Metamorphosis” features a hypnotic chant, which is a sacred verse, often chanted at the time of death.

It was on this album that I encountered an instrument that I had never heard before, the Hang drum, created in Switzerland in 2000, and considered as part of the idiophone class, it can be heard on three of the tracks, and sounds somewhat similar to a steel drum or handbell, but with the ability to adjust the pitch on the fly. The entire album is tranquil and reflective with dignified beauty. It’s certainly an album which would have made Ravi Shankar immensely proud of his daughters.