It doesn’t surprise us when Anoushka Shankar says that music was her outlet for expressing grief after her father, late sitar player Pt Ravi Shankar, passed away last December. But her new album, Traces Of You, is more than just a tribute to him. Almost like a chronicle of the tumultuous time we live in, the album broaches topics as wide as sexual violence (there’s a track on the album that’s titled ‘In Jyoti’s name’, ostensibly an ode to the fighting spirit of the Delhi rape victim), to Hindu philosophy and collective nostalgia.
The album also features her famous half-sister, Norah Jones, on its title track. In this exclusive telephonic interview to HT Café, Anoushka talks about all these things and more.
Traces Of You is a very diverse album, in terms of the issues you have touched upon. What were you going through while working on it?
The last few years have been very eventful. And music has been my way of processing and expressing my emotions. I started writing this album last summer. I was responding to motherhood back then. The Guwahati (molestation) case had also just happened. Then, in December, my father passing; and barely a few days after, the Delhi attack. So for me, it was a doubly painful time.
You have worked with Norah before. How was it different this time?
We worked before on an album with Karsh Kale. But this time, we have come together in an interesting way. I can’t speak for her, but musically, the experience has been very intimate, unusual and powerful.
There’s been a lot of speculation about your relationship with Norah. How would you describe it?
We’ve been incredibly close much before the media started saying that we weren’t. We share a very strong relationship, and that’s also because we’re both artistes.
This is your seventh album since 1998. Do you make a conscious decision to release music regularly?
In comparison to my touring career (20 years), I haven’t had many releases. Seven albums is not that much. Unlike other contemporary acts, I don’t feel the need to release an album every year. I need to live in between...to explore and experience.
How has motherhood changed your experiences as a musician?
It has made the logistical aspect of my music very difficult!
Is Norah a doting aunt?
Yes, she very much is.
Are you planning to tour India soon (she lives between US and UK)?
I’m planning to come in the winter. We are scheduling shows in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad, and others in December.