| Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar
Mumbai, Oct. 17: In the looks department she could compete with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, but that’s not what’s she is about. She’s about making great music.
Norah Jones is climbing steadily up the charts in the US and the UK. Her voice is honey and smoke. Her style is a mix of jazz, soul, country and folk-pop. Everyone from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly thinks she is the next big thing to hit the music scene in the US.
But she bears an uncanny resemblance to Anoushka Shankar. Actually, to Ravi Shankar.
Norah Jones, 23, is the other daughter of the sitar maestro, but this daughter would like to be thought of differently. While the fair and pretty Anoushka has become Ravi Shankar’s companion at every concert, Norah, dark, sensuous, and older, is performing to sold-out shows in the US — on her own.
Her debut album, Come Away With Me — released in February this year — shot up to No. 6 in the US Billboard 200, says Virgin Records, her label. She has been at the top of the charts for weeks now. The word “Grammy” is a buzz around her.
India is waking up to her, too, with Norah featuring as MTV’s “Ubharta Sitara” of the month.
In the interview, Norah, soft-spoken but lively, talks excitedly about her music, everything about which is American. If she has a non-American connection in her life, her father, she mentions it in passing.
“My dad’s a very famous musician,” is all she says when asked if there is any Indian influence in her music, at the end of the interview. MTV was forewarned against asking her anything about her father.
Norah is the daughter of Ravi Shankar and Sue Jones, a woman with whom Shankar had a nine-year relationship. While Ravi Shankar eventually went on to marry Sukanya Rajan, Anoushka’s mother, and they became his official family, Norah and her mother lived apart, away from the limelight.
But the other daughter, too, grew up to be a star without the father. That’s the way she likes it — her official website does not mention her father; nor does the press note on her album.
Norah moved with her mother to Dallas, Texas, when she was four, and began singing in church choirs from age five.
She was shaped by American music. Norah studied at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas and later at the University of North Texas — nationally renowned for its music programmes — where she majored in jazz piano.
In the summer of 1999, Norah accepted a friend’s offer of a summer sublet in Greenwich Village. She came to Manhattan and never went back to Texas.
Norah assembled her own group and was signed on by Blue Note, a subsidiary of Virgin Records, in January 2001. She began to record the songs of Come Away With Me, some of which were written by her, which hit the market in February this year.
The rest is musical history. While Virgin Records is very happy with the sales figures, critics are gushing about Norah. “Ms Jones has a voice that belies her age — breathy but with an intriguing detached, almost aloof quality. It’s apparent that she has listened to Patsy Cline as well as Billie Holiday...,” says a critic.
She refuses to acknowledge herself as anything other than all-American.
She mentions everyone from Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and Billie Holiday as musical influences. As a child, she grew up listening to one particular number, You Go To My Head, from her mother’s eight-album collection of Billie Holiday records.
My music is close to “American roots”, she says in the interview, “there’s jazz, blues, country”.
In an interview to Entertainment Weekly, she had said: “I love my dad and we’re as close as we can be, but it’s not something that contributed to my musical upbringing.”
She drifted closer to her father around four years ago.
India, too, is like any other country to her that she doesn’t know about. Though she hopes to come here, she says.