Norah? I just adore her… Anoushka Shankar on finding friendship with the sister she didn’t meet until her teens
A little over 13 years ago, half-sisters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones met for the first time.
Anoushka, daughter of the legendary Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, and eight-time Grammy-winning Norah Jones grew up thousands of miles apart owing to their father’s turbulent love life.
Yet one brief phone call and a flight later and the two women met. They now share a close bond.
Close: Half-sisters Norah Jones (left) and Anoushka Shankar
They have pursued successful, musical careers — Norah as a jazz pianist and vocalist while Anoushka, having trained with her father, has become a renowned sitar player in her own right, gaining two Grammy Award nominations.
The sisters, who share a sultry, doe-eyed beauty (even down to the matching tattoos of a lotus flower on their backs) have drawn closer now Anoushka, 30, is mother to her eight-month-old son Zubin.
‘Norah’s a great aunt,’ she says. ‘She lives in New York and I’m in London, so it’s a bit up and down as to how much time she can get to be with him, but she’s great with him. Maybe not the changing nappies part, but then I hadn’t changed one until I had my son.’
With a musician mother and aunt, director father (Anoushka is married to Atonement director Joe Wright) and with Ravi Shankar —described by The Beatles’ George Harrison as ‘the godfather of world music’ — as grandfather, chances are Zubin won’t be pursuing a career in accountancy.
Chip off the old block: Anoushka performing on the sitar for the 2006 Grammy Awards
‘The godfather of world music’: Legendary musician Ravi Shankar had a turbulent love life
‘He’s surrounded by music and he definitely likes to bang on his toy drums, but whatever he does will be his own choice,’ says Anoushka.
While Ravi bestowed his extraordinary musical ability upon his daughters, he also gave them an upbringing that was far from conventional.
Norah was born in 1979, the result of Ravi’s affair with New York concert producer Sue Jones (he had already had one marriage and one long-term relationship under his belt). Until the age of ten, she enjoyed a close relationship with her father.
Anoushka was born in 1981 to Ravi and Sukanya Rajan, a musician. When he married Sukanya in 1989, Sue banned him from seeing Norah.
Lovechild: Norah was the result of Ravi’s affair with New York concert producer Sue Jones
That he and his daughters have since managed to forge a close bond despite the interruptions is testimony to Ravi’s charm. Now 91, that spirit shows little sign of abating.
‘My father’s doing very well,’ says Anoushka. ‘Believe it or not, he’s going to India in a few weeks on tour.’
Like her father, who started on the road aged ten, Anoushka, who was given a sitar aged seven, started performing early in life, appearing alongside her father at 13.
Harrison was a fellow student. ‘We’d always compare notes on my father,’ she says. ‘He was incredible.’
Anoushka would travel between London (her birthplace), Delhi and California where her parents live.
Her latest album, an Indian- flamenco fusion that has received rave reviews, is entitled Traveller — a concept with which she can identify. ‘I had a nomadic upbringing, as did my husband whose parents were puppeteers,’ she says. ‘I’ll be taking our son with me for the album tour.’
Motherhood and marriage have come at a whirlwind pace for Anoushka, who met Joe two years ago. An admirer of his award-winning work, she accepted a dinner invitation when she knew he’d be there. They married last year.
‘I wanted to meet Joe that day, but I had no idea what it was going to turn into,’ she says.
Wright is in London filming Anna Karenina (with Keira Knightley and Jude Law), but unlike Norah who delved into acting in My Blueberry Nights (alongside Law), Anoushka has no such plans. ‘I don’t feel the same passion for it as I do for music.’
- Traveller is out now. For tour details, see anoushkashankar.com