A few years ago there was a New York Times Sunday Magazine feature on Norah Jones. I was looking at a nice photo of Norah Jones and was thinking she reminded me of somebody else. Then I read that she was the daughter of Ravi Shankar. I was floored, and immediately remembered, while reading Ravi’s autobiography, Raga Mala, that there was a love child born of a romance long since passed. Ravi wrote that this young artist was trying to make it as a singer-songwriter. This was Norah Jones. By this time Norah had already debuted on KCRW and her first Blue Note album had shot to the top of the charts.
Meanwhile, Ravi Shankar’s other daughter, Anoushka Shankar, was being groomed to succeed him as a raga maestra. Discipleship in classical Indian music is grueling: Ravi Shankar, who got his start with his brother Uday Shankar’s dance troupe, travelling the world with Anna Akhmatova’s Ballet company on the French art-deco S.S. Normandie and other luxury liners, lived in Paris among the writers and painters and le tout Paris in the 1930s, only to leave his posh young dandy’s life and surrender to his guru, the great Babaallaudin Khan (father and guru of Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi’s counterpart on the sarod) Young Ravi threw away his silk and satin garments and now donned rough clothing, moved into a cinder block hut, and practiced eight to ten hours a day for a decade. Only then did he start his musical career.
Anoushka didn’t want to follow her dad’s footsteps, but like him, embarked on new musical voyages, putting her sitar into new situations. Her latest album is called Traveler, and it blends Indian music with flamenco, reflecting a long history of the Rajasthani gypsies leaving India in the 15th century and travelling to Persia, then scattering across North Africa, and into the fertile cultural and musical mix that was Al-Andalus before the Christian reconquista of 1492.
Norah Jones, for her part, prefers singer-songwriting, and on her new album teamed up with an in-demand producer named Danger Mouse, known for his hits with Cee-lo Green. It’s called Little Broken Hearts. It’s a breakup album based partly on a relationship gone south, but it has lots of other elements. It’s been almost a decade in coming: Norah takes her time. Fans will find a different sound than earlier albums, and she’s said working with Danger Mouse challenged her in new ways and that she’s happy with the result.
Both women have large audiences and a good dose of musical DNA is in their genes. So why not check out their new cd’s?
Here’s an interesting video about the making of Anoushka’s new Indian/Flamenco album: the track features Buika as well as the great flamenco dancer Farruco:
And a video from the single on Norah’s new cd Little Broken Hearts: