Anoushka Shankar: Traces of You (Universal)

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Anoushka Shankar w Norah Jones: Unsaid
Anoushka Shankar: Traces of You (Universal)

Although nominally here under "World Music in Elsewhere", this emotionally charged album by the daughter of the late Pandit Ravi Shankar is her most cohesively interesting and engaging album yet in that bridge between her father's generation and her own.

And until she does an album of classical ragas expressing the loss of her father -- as this one does in places, in miniatures -- this, in places with Nitin Sawhney and her half-sister Norah Jones, is more than enough to be going on with.

The elegantly simple opening piece The Sun Won't Set (with Jones carrying the beguilingly sad vocal) reminds us that "Ravi" means sun in Sanskrit, and both daughters express their loss in different and distinct ways: Anoushka -- who studied sitar under her father -- brings a pensive romantically melancholy while Jones, who didn't know her dad until the past decade sings "I miss the morning heat . . . I wish I knew you then, it's always sunset in this place . . ."

Later in the piece Fathers -- piano by Sawhney and Anoushka following a similarly beautiful melodic line -- we are taken into the world of loss, promise and hope about the role of fathers. Sawhney's dad died within a few months of Ravi, and Anoushka's husband became a father to their first child.

None of this reeks of sentimentality, just a thoughtful consideration.

And elsewhere on this album of 13 pieces -- most averaging around four minutes aside from the exciting call/response improv of the traditionally-based Chasing Shadows which reaches a compeling eight-plus -- we are firmly grounded in 21st century India, and the West.

With pop-like distillation and references to post-hiphop production, piece like the spare and allusive Maya -- where dark sitar drags us back to the trap of this world of illusion -- or the almost funky Metamorphosis linking modern technology and the ancient Vedic tradition -- find common ground in the divide between (and that between life and death), this is an album of breadth, depth and spiritual dimension.

But it's also far from a gloomily introspective collection because, to invert the saying, even in the midst of death there is life . . . so here are elevating, joyous pieces alongside thoughftul explorations of finer as well as base emotions.

And on Traces of You the worlds of death/birth, East/West come together.

Quite an album, quite a tribute, quite a bridge between . . .

And the final track Unsaid with Jones -- which alludes melodically to Ravi's theme for Pather Panchali -- just makes you want to give that long overdue hug to parents, children, family, friends . . . 

Music which actually means something. 

Anoushka Shankar is interviewed at Elsewhere here, Norah Jones here and there is an insightful and humorous archival interview with Ravi Shankar here.

Elsewhere also offers this idiotically personal journey into Indian music here.

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