Anoushka Shankar's seventh CD, Traces of You on Deutsche Grammophon marks a significant step along her pathway as a musician and woman. The musical exploration on Traces of You was inspired by the idea that everything in the universe leaves an indelible mark, or a subtle "trace," on everything else it comes into contact with. Anoushka drew on her relationships and multicultural lifestyle to trace a journey of love, change and loss. Traces of You creates an uplifting soundscape that shimmers with the contagious power of hope.
Having lost her legendary father, Ravi Shankar, during the recording process, it was inevitable that her loss became the central focus of the song writing. However, the record is ultimately hopeful rather than mournful; a juxtaposition of the sorrow surrounding the loss of her father alongside the joy of raising her young son, Zubin. Traces of You became Anoushka's catharsis through a difficult period. The love for her father, her husband and her son proved to be the ultimate inspiration for some of the deepest music she has ever written. Traces of You was conceived as a unified concept and an unending circle, from the first track to the last. "I approached the album as a whole," she explains, "as opposed to a series of songs. A lot of it happened unconsciously. Life took a journey of its own and the music followed that form. The sitar leads the listener through the album like a narrator."
Shankar enlisted the help of multi-award-winning musician Nitin Sawhney, particularly noted for fusing Eastern influences and electronica and, more generally, a non-didactic interweaving of Western and Eastern soundscapes for which London, Anoushka's home and place of birth, provides the optimal environs. Sawhney was involved in all aspects of the record, from the creative processes of writing, arranging, programming and playing, right up to the final production.
Traces of Youfeatures Anoushka's half-sister Norah Jones as the sole vocalist on several songs. The two artists' very different timbres blend together amazingly well; neither musician had to make concessions to the other. The songs are well suited to the sophisticated intensity of Jones's smoky vocals, and Shankar's clever use of Indian rhythmic accompaniment creates surprising textures around the sisters' performances, especially on the impressive album opener The Sun Won't Set, a brilliant confluence of life experiences on three continents.
The individual tracks are considerably shorter than traditional raga performances, though a strong narrative strand is threaded through not only the three songs for which Norah provides vocals, but the ten instrumental tracks as well. Shankar's central theme is that of the cycle of life – from her perspective as a daughter, mother and wife. "Life goes on. Things end and things begin and our endings are not the ending because life goes on beyond us, and we go on beyond this life. It's bigger than I can ever imagine and there's a flow that connects everything, even when you can't really understand it in the moment. A lot of the most painful things I've ever been through have led to some of the most beautiful things that have ever happened. I was quite aware of that kind of metamorphosis when making this record. There was a lot of pain, a lot of joy, a lot of beauty, a lot of sadness, and sometimes they were all completely mixed up together."
The immense suppleness of tracks such as "Flight," "Maya" and "Lasya" stems from the almost unlimited possibilities of the Hang, a relatively new instrument that looks something like a cross between a steel drum and a flying saucer. Austrian Hang player Manu Delago understands perfectly how to blend his instrument with the sitar, as well as with Ian Burdge's gentle cello and Sawhney's virtuosic guitar and piano work and sophisticated electronic sounds. The use of a great variety of Indian percussion, in the hands of Anoushka's regular collaborators Tanmoy Bose and Pirashanna Thevarajah, also creates numerous volatile bridges between worlds.
Anoushka Shankar is one of the leading figures in World Music today. She is deeply rooted in the Indian classical music she studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, Ravi Shankar. In her twenties, after establishing herself as one of the foremost classical sitarists on the world's stage, she began thriving as a composer, exploring fertile ground in the crossover between Indian music and a variety of genres including flamenco, jazz, electronica and Western classical music. Among various accolades she has been nominated for three Grammy® Awards, making her the first Indian female and youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category. She was also the youngest and first female recipient of a House of Commons Shield from the British House of Parliament in 1999. As a classical sitarist she debuted professionally at the age of thirteen and has performed in prestigious venues such as Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall (over a dozen times), and championed her father's orchestral works with the world's leading orchestras. In 2011 Anoushka signed to the prestigious classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, and released her sixth album, the Grammy-nominated Traveller.