Traces of You (Deutsche Grammophon, 2013)
The late and much revered musician and composer Ravi Shankar has gifted music fans an extraordinary legacy. One would guess the legacy I am referring to is the wealth of compositions and recorded music Mr. Shankar left behind, but there is an even better legacy and that would be his daughters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones. These half-sisters have wowed fans with a treasure trove of music that includes Ms. Jones’ recordings Come Away with Me, Little Broken Hearts and Not Too Late, and Ms. Shankar’s recordings Anoushka, Rise and Traveller. That living and breathing legacy has crafted yet another offering with Ms. Shankar’s latest entitled Traces of You, set for release on October 22nd on the Deutsche Grammophon label. And, as luck would have it Ms. Jones has joined Ms. Shankar on three tracks of this newest CD.
Ms. Shankar thrills the listener with intricate compositions and simply enthralls with sitar lines that by turns skate effortlessly over the surface, thrum deep and dazzle with almost living vibrancy. While Ms. Shankar’s talents sit center stage, Traces of You drinks deeply of the collaborative efforts of composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Nitin Sawhney, tabla player Tanmoy Bose, flutist Ravichandra Kulur, percussionist Pirashanna Thevarajah, cellist Ian Burdge and percussionist Manu Delgado who also introduces listeners to the sounds of the hang, a new instrument that looks a little like two head of steel drums welded together. Ms. Jones lends her writing skills to Traces of You, as well as her silky seductive vocals for such tracks as “The Sun Won’t Set,” title track “Traces of You” and the hauntingly poignant “Unsaid.”
Ms. Shankar explains “Unsaid,” “Several weeks after our father’s passing, I flew to New York to record with Norah, and wrote these lyrics on the plane. She sat at the piano trying out a new melody, and as she sang, I realized she was singing phrases that were astonishingly close to the beloved musical theme our father wrote for Satyajit Ray’s film “Pather Panchali” decades ago. I asked her about it, and she told me she’d never heard that melody before. It is small, inexplicable moments like these that fill me with gratitude and awe.”
Fans are treated to a mixed wonderland filled with intimate pieces like opening track “The Sun Won’t Set” with sitar, guitar, easy percussion and Ms. Jones’ lushly worked vocals, the elegant lines of “Flight” with sitar, drum and cello and fantastically exotic tracks like “In Jyoti’s Name,” that’s a bit like a breathless ride on a runaway train. There’s also the elegantly drawn “Fathers,” the rich and rousing “Chasing Shadows” and “Monsoon,” which Ms. Shankar notes, “When I play the raga “Manj Khamaj” I feel deeply connected to my father, as it was always one of my favorite ragas to hear him play. Nitin and I decided to leave the sitar’s sweetness and melancholy exposed by avoiding any rhythmic or melodic accompaniment other than a tanpura’s drone.” Equally wonderful is the evocative “River Pulse” written by Mr. Sawhney who wrote the piece having been inspired by Mr. Shankar’s playing.
Traces of You finds that wonderful in-between space where musical tradition seeps into modernity and vice versa, that space where Mr. Shankar’s musical legacy can grow and evolve.
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Author: TJ Nelson
TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.
Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.
Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.