Traces Of You – Anoushka Shankar
Audio CD, Universal Music, Rs. 395
It’s not every day that a daughter gets to sing for her father. And especially when the father happens to be the late Pandit Ravi Shankar, it’s a memorial of a notably bigger proportion from daughter, songwriter, composer and sitarist Anoushka Shankar. When her father passed away at the end of 2012, she was working on this album and Traces Of You turned out to be a musical tribute to daddy from Anoushka who also recruits half-sister Norah Jones in this seventh studio masterpiece of progressive world music.
With longtime friend, multi-musician and composer Nitin Sawhney pitching in, the instrumental heavy 13-track compilation is a cleverly put-together soundscape that weaves a pattern of memories through every song. Despite the seemingly complex structures in the harmonically cohesive album, the arrangement tells a simple, poignant narrative of emotional attachment to a larger-than-life father.
Kicking off with a rousing traditional sitar spectacle emblazed by Norah Jones’ ethereal vocals, the duo present ‘The Sun Won’t Set’. Ravi, her father’s first name, means ‘sun’ in Sanskrit and the music is moving expression of Anoushka’s unwillingness to let go of him.
The maestro invites you to take ‘flight’ in the next haunting melodic introspective composition. ‘Flight’ is an evolutionary and emotionally-charged instrumental that brings in a new musical union, pairing the sitar with the intricate sounds of a new instrument – the Hand Drum – played by its foremost exponent Manu Delago. The song shares its theme with ‘Fathers’ that dabble in deep memories of good times.
‘Indian Summer’ is a piano and sitar duet that paints vibrant summer pictures of the subcontinent in indelible harmonies. The cohesion of western and Indian instrumentation is massively dynamic and exceedingly awe-inspiring. ‘Maya’ and ‘Lasya’ follow. The two arrangements border on illusionary sound that weaves graceful musical designs based on Anoushka’s inspiration and love.
‘Metamorphosis’ flows to memories of her father as the ‘Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra’, which is chanted during the time of someone’s passing away, pours into the rhythmic song. The movement continues in meandering ecstasy with ‘In Jyothi’s Name’. ‘Monsoon’ moves into more melancholic and sweet sitar sounds while ‘Chasing Shadows’, one of Anoushka’s favourite compositions, follows in fantastic vibes. Bringing together a range of musicians, the composition, written with her father’s disciple Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, is the soul of the album.
‘Traces Of You’, the title track, is the real heart of the album. With Norah’s voice adding magic to the song, the track is easily the most beautiful jewel in this album’s crown.
‘River Pulse’ is a raging orchestral duel with a vibrant, flourishing sitar-guitar exchange. The album closes with ‘Unsaid’, a joint venture with Norah on the piano. The girls say thank you to their father and share all the unsaid words from their heart in this deeply moving song. There may not be too many tears shed but the album does touch many emotional highs. A perfect tribute of love, Traces Of You is a simple token of gratitude and a treasure throve of memories that is worth picking up and giving a listen. You may end up playing it over and over again.