| IN LIMELIGHT: Norah
Washington, Feb. 10: India will be celebrated from coast to coast in America this week — and perhaps for months — with today’s release of her second album by Norah Jones, daughter of sitarist Ravi Shankar and last year’s sensation at the Grammys.
Jones, whose first album, Come Away With Me, was a non-event when it was released some two years ago, today followed up the eight-million-copy sale of that CD and a handful of Grammys in 2003 with a second offering, Feels Like Home.
Thanks to a reconciliation with her famous father and a visit to her Indian family in Delhi last month along with boyfriend and bassist Lee Alexander, the 24-year-old singer’s Indianness is now the staple among America’s music fans.
The publicity shy, intensely private Jones now talks about her father, albeit not in excess: he was taboo in the few interviews she had given in the run-up to last year’s Grammys.
“Now people ask if we will ever do a duet,” Jones told The New York Times Magazine last month. “I mean I don’t know much about Indian classical music and he (Ravi Shankar) certainly doesn’t know about Ryan Adams. Not to be confused with Bryan Adams. Not that there is anything wrong with Bryan Adams.”
This month, pictures of the brown-skinned 24 year-old with black hair were splashed on the pages of magazines and newspapers all across the US. And she was a presenter at this week’s 46th Grammys. Norah’s oriental features and her pedigree are already making her out to be different in America’s world of entertainment. Brian McCollum, pop music critic of the Detroit Free Press wrote this week: “Norah Jones is most certainly this: she is the anti-American Idol, the anti-digitised-pop, the anti-Super-Bowl-half-time-trash.”
More than a million copies of her new album have already been pre-ordered.
Editors at newspapers and magazines which have written about her in the weeks before today’s release say letters from readers are pouring in, suggesting that she has touched a chord in American hearts.
A moving letter from a reader, published in The New York Times Magazine last weekend, read: “The music that Norah Jones and her talented colleagues create engages three types of people: those lucky enough to be in love, those who hope to be in love and those who remember a great love, now gone.
“Since being introduced to Jones’s magic by my daughter almost two years ago, I have bought more than 15 copies of her first CD to send to music lovers and thankless old lovers. Jones’s sound and interpretations transport me; her respect for the surprising blue note and her ability to caress a careful lyric are unique.
“New brides dance to her music and name their dogs after her. And the rest of us, we have been sitting here waiting for her, so she should come on home and turn us on. We will be feeling the same way all over again.”
Success, though, has not gone to the singer’s head, thanks mainly to a mother who has her head firmly on her shoulders. Jones told Time magazine this week about her success. “I am not saying I didn’t want any of it or that I think I am undeserving, but I am young. I am still figuring out what I want.”
While Jones does that, it is good season for India in her reflected glory after months of bitterness here over job outsourcing and other worries like dumping of shrimp and steel from India on the American market.