Tag Archives: world fusion

Artist Profiles: Baka Beyond

Baka Beyond

For Baka Beyond, global fusion is a way of life. In 1992, Martin Cradick & Su Hart visited and played with the Baka people in the Cameroon rainforest. The resulting group pioneered the Afro-Celt groove, and five albums later (four for Joe Boyd’s Hannibal label), Baka Beyond is a collaborative music process, learned from the Baka people – ‘everyone to be listened to’.

Baka Beyond is an ever-evolving world music project involving musicians from five countries in West & Central Africa and Europe. The African players,, everyone an acknowledged virtuoso with a parallel career in their own right,, meet the Northern European traditions where Martin, Su, and Breton fiddle maestro Paddy Le Mercier learned their music. Over the years, they have got to know each other and each other’s way of working Baka Beyond live or in the studio is a living lesson in communication, in passing the energy round.

The relationship with the Baka themselves grows closer by the year. Regular return visits keep the inspiration strong, but have also kept Martin &Su in touch with what is needed for them to survive and preserve their culture. Royalties due for the gift of a rhythm or a tune are distributed among the musicians’ communities and for projects in association with charities such as the World Rainforest Movement. The group themselves are also heavily involved in cultural and environmental education in Britain.

Discography

Spirit of the Forest (Hannibal Records HNCD 1377, 1993)
The Meeting Pool (Hannibal Records HNCD 1388, 1995)
Journey Between (Hannibal Records HNCD 1415, 1998)
Sogo (Hannibal Records HNCD 145, 2)
East to West (March Hare Music MAHA CD18/USA: Narada 43725, 2003)
Rhythm Tree (2005)
Baka Live (2007)
Beyond the Forest (2009)
After the Tempest (2014)

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Artist Profiles: TransGlobal Underground

TransGlobal Underground in the early 1990s

In the early 1990s, three men got together in an inadequate recording studio equipped with a Simon Harris break beat album, a cassette of chants recorded on a holiday to Tahiti, a sampler and some basic recording equipment. In the space of a few hours, Alex Kasiek, Tax D and Hamid Mantu had created the first version of what would become their biggest selling record and the beginning of a whole new life for them. The trio called the record Temple Head and themselves TransGlobal Underground.

After a couple of meetings with record labels it soon became apparent that this record was not easy for people to understand. You could dance to it but it was too slow to be house (electronic dance music genre). Apart from the sampled chorus of ‘na na na, na na na’, there were no lyrics and wasn’t seen as commercial enough to be a pop song – there seemed to be no place or genre for TransGlobal Underground.

That was until the Temple Head cassette fell into the hands of Nation Records, a label created specifically to fuse western dance music with Arabic music, Asian music, and African music. Straight away, it fitted in with what Nation had been doing on the two Fuse compilations, released around the same time. After a couple of days in a better studio and the addition of Inder Goldfinger on tablas, Terry Neale – The Human Cuica, and a rapper known as Sheriff, the single was finished and released on Nation in 1991. Straight away, it created a commotion among those looking for something new: DJs such as Rampling and Weatherall and clubs like Whirl-Y-Gig and Club Dog.

Gradually, the media caught up and ‘Temple Head’ became Melody Maker’s ‘Single Of The Week’: “the kind of record that makes you proud to be an Earthling.” Mixmag thrust it straight to No. 1 in their Buzz Chart. Kiss FM DJs were playing it during the day (at the wrong speed) Gary Davies was playing it during the day on Radio One (at the right speed). Magazines were climbing over themselves for interviews, everyone wanted to know who this band were. Wanting to stay anonymous, some press shots were quickly knocked together with the three of them wearing carved Nepalese temple guardians masks, and the foundations of the band’s ‘trans-global’ image were laid.

At this point, along came Deconstruction Records, quick to seize on anything going on the dance scene, with an offer to make an album for them. Quickly an assortment of friends, associates and distant relatives got thrown into a studio in Euston and recorded the fundamentals of what was to be TransGlobal Underground’s first album. Tuup, a very old ally, got involved at this point and Jalal from Loop Guru co-wrote one track. The sessions also marked the first appearance of vocalist Natacha Atlas, who had recently departed from Invaders of the Heart. She gave a performance that reduced the whole studio to tears, then capped it by belly dancing around the control room wearing a copy of the Daily Mirror. So she was in.

Everyone was delighted with the results except for Deconstruction, who couldn’t see the point of any of it. Like it or not, a momentum had started up and a live line-up was put together, consisting of ManTu, Dubulah, Natacha, Goldfinger and Kasiek, with Tuup as a floating extra member. Most British dance acts of the time consisted of one singer and two keyboard players in anoraks. Trans-Global Underground rapidly gained a reputation for flamboyant live performances, dramatic costumes, belly dancing, endless percussion and, of course, Nepalese temple guardians. They returned to their spiritual home at Nation and recorded a second single, “I, Voyager.” This marked the debut of beat poet and percussionist Neil Sparkes (who later formed Temple of Sound), who became a regular member of the live team.

By the time of the third single, “Shimmer,” a track from the Deconstruction sessions featuring Tuup, the word was spreading. At that time, Nation Records, with Fun-da-Mental and Loop Guru also getting serious media coverage, finally had the wherewithal to get an album out. Dream of 1 Nations basically consisted of the Deconstruction sessions plus “I, Voyager” and a couple of newer tracks. The combination of so many musical styles was something no one had gotten away with before and the live performances were getting ecstatic reactions. Dream of 1 Nations was acclaimed as one of the year’s best debuts, and when it got into the top fifty it was inevitable that another major company would start throwing its weight around. This time it turned out to be Sony, who financed the second album, International Times. By this time, the basic live line-up was Mantu, Dubulah, Natacha, Neil Sparkes and Attia Ahlan. This was soon augmented by rapper Coleridge and multi-instrumentalist Larry Whelan. This line-up began Trans-Global Underground’s adventures into Europe and when possible the show grew even bigger with the addition of percussionist Satin Singh.

Beyond the live shows, TGU were also busy remixing and producing. They captured a unique little niche by specializing in remixing industrial bands such as Grotus and Headbutt. Their biggest task, however, was producing Natacha’s debut album for Beggars Banquet Records, Diaspora, which was more or less an unofficial Trans-Global Underground album, in that it was based around the live line-up of the time. Diaspora was Natacha’s first serious attempt at coming to grips with her mixed Arabic heritage. Her second album, Halim, released in 1997, moved away from the Trans-Global Underground sound in a more purely Arabic direction; however the Trans-Global Underground produced single, “Amulet,” was the track that did the most to get her taken seriously by Arabic audiences.

As for Trans-Global Underground themselves, in 1996 Psychic Karaoke, their third official album, was released. Probably the group’s most polished album, it took the line-up of the time about as far as it could go, so, after a lengthy spell of touring, it disbanded. Neil Sparkes and Dubulah went on to form Temple of Sound with Terry Neale, whose album, Black Orchid, was released late 98. Larry Whelan went on to work with Banco de Gaia and Natacha, who, while concentrating on her solo career, continued to appear live with Trans-Global Underground.

Once again, Trans-Global Underground was a floating, indefinable venture. For a while it was more of a club than a group, utilizing the services of North London clubland legends DJ Nelson Dilation and VJ Sheikh Ad Helik. The reputation of the live act continued to hold up, aided by the introduction of Johnny Kalsi, percussionist and leader of Indian drumming troupe the Dhol Foundation.

Trans-Global Underground traveled into Eastern Europe and Turkey, and made their first appearances in the USA. The album that followed these adventures, was Rejoice Rejoice.

For the tour around Rejoice Rejoice, Tuup reappeared onstage for the first time in a few years, along with sitarist Sheema Mukherjee who had played on the album. Trans-Global Underground ended 1998 with their biggest and most unexpected tour to date, supporting Jimmy Page and Robert Plant on a series of massive European shows, gaining a new audience.

By 1999 Natacha and Johnny’s own projects were taking up too much of their time to continue playing with Trans-Global Underground, but Natacha’s third album, Gedida, was largely Trans-Global Underground produced, notably the single ‘Mon Amie La Rose’ which was a big hit in France, and the band still worked with her on recording projects.

Around the same time, Trans-Global Underground parted company with Nation Records. Two more of the cast of Rejoice Rejoice came onboard fulltime, Punjabi percussionist Gurjit Sihra and Zulu vocalist Doreen Thobekile, who had worked with Hamid before on the Xangbetos project for Nation. With a new burst of energy, Trans-Global Underground started traveling further outwards, touring in India, Tunisia, Turkey, South Africa and playing regularly around Eastern Europe. A lot of time was also spent in Egypt working with various Egyptian artists including Hakim, Riko, Mika Sabet and of course Natacha Atlas.

The new material put together over this period became the album Yes Boss Food Corner, which was half finished when the band signed up to Ark21 Records new label, Mondo Rhythmica. The album was released in 21 but the relationship was shortlived, although the touring stepped up, with the band visiting Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and an endless list of others. “With this album, ‘Yes Boss Food Corner‘ we’ve got closer to the spirit of our live performances than before and we’re very proud of it…but ultimately nothing beats the live vibe. We’re hoping for technology that could send us into people’s houses as holograms or something.”

The group’s current sound is less electronic, but it still blends acoustic and electronic instruments. “We always used a lot of real instrumentation. The mixture was part of the whole concept at the beginning. The difference is that the balance has changed.”

Hamid Man Tu describes the group’s approach to sampling: “One important thing is that the technology has developed a long way since we started and ‘sampling’ was new and exciting. Most forms of digital technology – which are what most people record with these days – are basically a form of sampling, so the division between sampling and live recording has become blurred, especially with people like us who were never too sure which was which.” For those who believe Trans Global Underground samples from CDs, Tu adds: “We sample ourselves a lot, then we play over the samples, then we sample over the recording…er…then we start getting confused. Somehow or other a record comes out of the whole thing.”

TransGlobal Underground have been there and done that. They’ve been built up by the press and knocked down by the press. They’ve played to huge crowds in almost every country in the world, released four albums and numerous singles, six of which were awarded Single of The Week by NME and Melody Maker, they’ve executed remixes for Pop Will Eat Itself, Dodgy, Grotus and Les Baxter (to name a few), signed deals with both BMG and then Sony (neither worked out) and handed over “Temple Head” to Coca-Cola for their ad campaign preceding the 1996 Olympics

Over the last years, the band’s line-up has changed frequently, from album to album, satisfying the band’s hunger for new sounds and ideas, always keeping their sound fresh. There are sounds from all over – India, Africa, Egypt, Israel, Europe. They use traditional instruments such as tabla, dhol, conga, violin, kalimba, jembe, piano, shenai, tons of percussion, tons of bass, all fused with the sounds of 9’s dance culture – hip-hop, house, techno – the list goes on and on.

Lately, the sound TransGlobal Underground seems less Arabic and more Indian. “The Arabic influence was largely due to Natacha Atlas‘ voice and since we’re still working with her solo projects and doing various production work for other Middle Eastern artists, a lot of our interests in that style are satisfied elsewhere (sounds like we’re eating a great big bucket of couscous doesn’t it). The main new Indian element is that we now have Sheema Mukherjee playing sitar, which involves a more melodic influence over the usual bhangra drum frenzy we like to indulge in.”

Even though many fans think of TransGlobal Underground as a club band, the group plays more and more in larger venues. “As there’s now seven of us, we don’t often fit into dance clubs. We seem to do 5% small sweaty venues and 5% big spacious festivals, which is a good combination.”

The group continues to work with Natacha Atlas on various projects although she has not participated in TransGlobal Underground’s latest recordings. “Natacha sometimes turns up backstage and makes us some excellent mint tea. As I mentioned, we’re all over her new album and she survived the experience so yeah, we’ll be working together when we can.”

In 2003 Coleridge opened a dance record business of his own and TransGlobal Underground and Doreen Thobekile began work on a solo project of hers. A whole nation of members of the tribe have come and gone; original male vocalist Tuup came and went at irregular intervals, reappearing unexpectedly in different parts of the world. At various times the line-up has included South African solo artist Doreen Thobekile, Johnny Kalsi from the Dhol Foundation, and still includes Great Britain’s greatest sitarist, Sheema Mukherjee.

TransGlobal Underground in 2005

Trans-Global Underground have diversified even further over the years. Producers/DJs Hamid ManTu (Drums, programming, DIY choirs and choruses) and Tim Whelan (keyboards, guitars, programming, production) relocated in Cairo for a brief period at the end of the 9s, working for artists like Hakim, Khaled and Kazem El Sahar before the release of the 5th album. Yes Boss Food Corner sent Trans-Global Underground on a worldwide journey that lasted 3 years and took them through to the 6th album, Impossible Broadcasting, with which they came home most of them anyway to the UK and set up their own label, Mule Satellite.

In 2007, Moonshout came out to the best reception they’d had since the Nation Records days, the album’s energy and ambition perhaps bolstered by the group being once again totally independent and plotting their own course. This was the climax of a busy period back in the studio which found them contributing music to the forthcoming Arabic/English language film Whatever Lola Wants and the Imagine Village project on Real World.

Discography:

Dream of 100 Nations (Nations Records NR 21 CD, 1993)

International Times (Nations Records NATCD 38 CD, 1994)

Interplanetary Meltdown (Nations Records NATCD 57 CD, 1995)

Psychic Karaoke (1996)

Rejoice Rejoice (Nations Records NR CD 167, 1998)

Backpacking On The Graves Of Our Ancestors (Nations Records NR CD 185, 1998)

Yes Boss Food Corner (Ark 21/Mondo Rhythmica, 2001)

Impossible Broadcasting (Europe: Mule Satellite Records MUL1, 24 / US: Triloka Records TRI-CD-82)

Moonshout (2007)

A Gathering of Strangers (2010)

The Stone Turntable (Mule Satellite Records, 2011)

Kabatronics (World Village, 2013)

Website: http://transglobalunderground.net

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Nakai’s Southwestern Jams

R. Carlos Nakai Quartet – What Lies Beyond (Canyon Records CR-7211, 2016)

Acclaimed Navajo-Ute flutist R. Carlos Nakai has numerous projects that range from traditional American Indian flute music to contemporary sounds rooted in Native traditions. The R. Carlos Nakai Quartet is an avenue to fuse Native American melodies with jazz and global beats.

The highlights of the album are the flute performances backed by the creative rhythm patterns and keyboards.

The lineup includes R. Carlos Nakai on Native American flute; AmoChip Dabney on saxophone, keyboards, guitar; Will Clipman on drums and ethnic percussion; and Johnny Walker on bass.

What Lies Beyond is a beautifully-crafted album that showcases the talent of a musician who is taking American Indian/Native American music to exciting new territories.

Buy R. Carlos Nakai Quartet – What Lies Beyond

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Ancient Future to Perform at Trinity Chapel

Ancient Future
Ancient Future

Pioneering world fusion act Ancient Future is set to perform on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at Trinity Chapel in Berkeley. The concert will feature guitarist Matthew Montfort, tabla master Vishal Nagar, and Mariah Parker on piano and santur.

Ancient Future combines world music traditions such as flamenco and Indian ragas with modern jazz and rock. The trio will perform new musical pieces along with favorites from the band’s eight recordings. The band’s discography includes Quiet Fire, Asian Fusion, Dreamchaser, Yearning for the Wind, Planet Passion, and World Without Walls.

Trinity Chamber Concerts
Trinity Chapel
2320 Dana Street between Bancroft Way & Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
Information and reservations: 510-778-1719

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Artist Profiles: Shankhachur Lahiri

Shankh Lahiri
Shankh Lahiri

Tabla performer Shankh Lahiri comes from a family with a strong tradition of Indian Classical Music and has fully devoted his life to this music. Son of the sitarist and Guru Shri Rabindranath Lahiri, he grew up in an environment imbued with the fragrance of Hindustani music.

As a child, Shankh Lahiri received intensive training in both vocal and tabla from his father and went on to graduate with a Sangeet Visharad in both subjects. Currently Shankh, as he is known in the fraternity, is the senior disciple of world-renowned tabla maestro Pandit Nayan Ghosh.

He has accompanied and toured with many reputed and leading artists such as Pt. Jasraj, Ustad Shujaat Khan, Ustad Shahid Parvez, Pt. Arati Ankalikar, Nayan Ghosh (sitar), Pt. Mukul Shivputra, Shri Rakesh Chaurasia and many more.

Aside from his own performing career, Shankh teaches students in Florida through his own organization, Shruti School of Music and the non-profit Shruti Foundation in Tampa.

Shankh is a member of world fusion band WAHH.

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Bickram Ghosh’s Drums of India to Perform at The Schimmel Center in New York City

Bickram Ghosh
Bickram Ghosh

Indian percussion virtuoso Bickram Ghosh and his Drums of India are set to perform on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at The Schimmel Center in New York City. The band includes Bickram Ghosh on tabla, kanjira, body percussion, and handsonic; Gopal Barman on srikhol; Suresh Vaidyanathan on ghatam and morsing; and Abhisek Mallick on sitar.

Ghosh is one of India’s finest tabla players and a l-known figure in the world of Indo-fusion music. He toured the globe with the legendary Pt. Ravi Shankar. Ghosh later formed his tremendously successful band Rhythmscape.

Bickram Ghosh has over 100 albums to his credit. His most recent is Maya – Bickram Ghosh’s Dedication to Ravi Shankar.

He’s also a prolific film composer and together with Sonu Nigam, received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score for the Bollywood film ‘Jai’. In 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Banga Bhushan award, the second highest civilian State award , and in 2015 the Maha Sangeet Samman, the highest musical recognition in West Bengal by the Chief Minister of Bengal Smt. Mamata Banerjee.

7:30PM
The Schimmel Center
3 Spruce Street – New York, NY 10038
(Between Gold St and Park Row)
www.schimmelcenter.org

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“I see myself as a world citizen” – Asian Underground Pioneer Karsh Kale

Award-winning musician and composer Karsh Kale performed in India recently for the launch of the Art Bangalore Festival. The British-born, New York City-raised producer and multi-instrumentalist of Indian heritage has released a string of albums: Realize, Liberation, Breathing Under Water, Up, and The Matrix (by Tabla Beat Science, co-founded by Bill Laswell).

 

Karsh Kale - Up
Karsh Kale – Up (2016)

 

Karsh is one of the pioneers of the ‘Asian Underground’ genre, mixing Indian classical and folk music along with electronica and ambient music. He has conducted masterclasses on his musical journey, and cites groups ranging from Shakti to Led Zeppelin as musical influences. He has collaborated with Anoushka Shankar, Zakir Hussain, Sting, Norah Jones, Warren Mendonsa (nephew of Bollywood composer Loy Mendonsa), and a range of other artists.

Karsh sees India as ripe for experimentation with a range of sounds and a globally-exposed youth.  His set in Bangalore was a heady mix of tablas, vocals, Carnatic flute, percussion and electric guitar. Karsh joins us in this interview, conducted just before his set, on his musical style, journey and message.

Q: It has been 15 years since your first album ‘Realise’ was released. Where do you see yourself headed in your artistic journey?

I have expanded my scope into films – music scores and script-writing. I continue to try out new technologies in the area of music and performance – such as virtual reality (VR)!

 

Karsh Kale - Realize
Karsh Kale – Realize

 

Q: How do you manage to do ‘fusion without confusion’ – blending so many styles and genres and yet coming across so coherent and creative!

It is important to have a palette of different experiences, but not just dabble in a range of styles. I have studied these different forms very hard, and that makes the flow and fusion easier.

I have communicated and connected with people from different walks of life, and that makes it easier to collaborate and fuse. My music comes across as natural and not ‘conceptual.’ For example, when I am blending thumri with electronica, the song is happening and playing in my head.

 

 

Q: How do you see the role of technology tools in changing music?

I use a range of tools, but at the same time I also spend time away from the computer, playing with acoustic guitars for example.

Tools are great, but one must go beyond the software palette as well! I have also played with others on acoustic instruments such as the kora.

 

 

Q: What are some of your next albums and collaborations?

I am working on an album with Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan, sons of sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and stars in their own right.

Q: What are some of your favorite festivals to play at?

I have played in a range of festivals around the world, such as Glastonbury and NH7 – but Burning Man really stands out!

I have played there three times. The audience, energy, format – everything is amazing, the effect it has on you as soon as you get there is incredible. The entire system is different – you barter things, you share. It feels like another planet!

 

 

Q: Some of your more unusual collaborations have been with Chinese musician Sa Dingding. Tell us what that was like!

Yes, that was very different. I got a call once from Universal China to collaborate with her, and next thing I knew I was in Beijing, sitting next to her at a piano! We didn’t speak each other’s languages, but the music emerged as we played.

I did some research on Chinese classical music and pop, and the album featured elements of Indian classical music, Chinese pop, electronica and other contemporary sound. The sound engineer did help with some translation as well.

Q: What can we look forward to at your performance and lineup tonight?

I will play a mix of old and new material. There will be great visual displays and effects too. I don’t have a fixed band but a collective with shifting and evolving lineups, like a revolving door. For example, during my performance in Toronto last week, I played with half my New York band and half my India band.

 

Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Q: What is your message to the audience?

I want the audience to create their own message, by the way my music unleashes their imagination. From Mexico to Poland, I want my audiences to connect to my music from their own contexts.

I see myself a world citizen, and want to make the world a smaller and hopefully better place.

Additional Photos of Karsh Kale and his band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016:

 

Karsh Kale in Bangalore 2016 - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Karsh Kale at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Karsh Kale band at the Art Bangalore Festival 2016 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao
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Artist Profiles: Aditya Kalyanpur

Aditya Kalyanpur
Aditya Kalyanpur

Indian tabla player Aditya Kalyanpur was born July 21, 1978 in Mumbai, India. A student of the legendary late Ustad Alla Rakha and today of Ustad Zakir Hussain with whom he has collaborated and performed for many years now. Aditya Kalyanpur is well known in the west for his solo performance during the Rolling Stones concert held in Bombay and for the recording collaboration with their saxophonist Tim Ries. He has participated in some important festivals in India and abroad.

He’s recorded with John Beasley (“American Idol” music director), performed with GRAMMY-winner John Popper at the prestigious Carnegie Hall NYC, and Founded the New England School of Music in Boston, MA, as well as established the Shyamal Music Foundation in Mumbai, India – a non-profit created to promote, preserve and propagate Indian classical music by giving a platform to the next generation of talented musicians.

Aditya Kalyanpur is currently a member of the fusion group Tihai.

http://www.adityakalyanpur.com

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Artist Profiles: Abhishek Basu

Abhishek Basu gave his first professional concert with santur maestro Tarun Bhattacharya. He was but a boy of eight when he first stepped into his guru’s home, where music reigned, in every possible form.

While Bikram Ghosh was away on long tours with Ravi Shankar, Abhishek had the privilege of taking lessons from the former’s father, the great tabla wizard Shankar Ghosh.

For the past years, Abhishek has intensely engaged himself with the study of rhythm. Presently, he is enriching his musical horizons with guidance from mridangam maestro Vidwan S. Sekhar. Though his technical underpinning derive from the Farrukhabad Gharana, Abhishek believes in the individual beauty of every gharana (school).

Abhishek’s individuality rests primarily on his modulations of the baya (the left hand bass drum). What distinguishes him most from his contemporaries is his ability to strike a perfect balance between power, clarity, and rhythmic sophistication. Bikram Ghosh says, “Abhishek is an extremely diligent and hard working tabla player. He is exceptionally talented, as is evident from the standard of performance he has achieved at such a young age. I can confidently say that he has a very bright future in professional tabla playing. He is sure to shine as one of the finest tabla players in our country in the near future.”

Awarded the First Prize at the annual music competition of the West Bengal State music Academy in 1996, Abhishek is also the recipient of the Pandit Jyan Prakash Ghosh Award (2001).

Abhishek has appeared in concert both as a soloist and accompanist in many. He has toured and performed with Tarun Bhattacharya, the celebrated santur virtuoso. Abhishek contributed significantly to Bhattacharya’s album Dance of the Gods, released by Bricklane, UK.

Abhishek released his first World music album Acrostic, with his world fusion band, ISM. Abhishek’s band has performed in the top venues of Kolkata.

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Don’t Nix the Mix

Seems like a clear majority of releases coming my way nowadays are some kind of fusion music. It hasn’t been easy tearing myself away from specific genres I know and love, but this thing we call World Music is getting ever more, well, worldly, and being along for the sonic global ride can result in finding music that excites listeners as much as breathtaking sights thrill literal travelers.

You’d expect an album with a title like Planetary Coalition (Skol Productions, 2015) to be pretty far-reaching, and it is. Under the guidance of guitarist Alex Skolnick, a versatile axe man known mainly for dual identities as a thrash metal and jazz player, this sizable, ArtistShare-sponsored coalition shines on 75 minutes of sounds from many a corner of the world.

Skolnick’s string finesse trades off gracefully with the santoor of Max ZT on several tracks, matches the deft fire of Rodrigo y Gabriela on another, makes the textures of Yacouba Sissoko’s kora that much more heavenly, underpins Kiran Ahluwalia’s ghazal-influenced vocals with the proper mysticism and adds electricity to the tart tones of Adnan Joubran’s oud. And that’s barely marring the surface. There are Argentinian, Eastern European, Far Eastern and Latin Jazz ingredients here as well, and notable guest players aplenty. Yet this mainly instrumental set doesn’t overreach. It’s an ear feast that satisfyingly blends the familiar and the unexpected.

 

Idan Raichel - At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016)
Idan Raichel – At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016)

 

For the time being he’s put aside the Idan Raichel Project name and recording simply as Idan Raichel on At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016). An Israeli keyboardist, composer, producer and arranger, Raichel has (apart from his acoustic albums with Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure) long blended Jewish, Arabic and African sounds with a worldly dance music sensibility. His new one finds him more introspective, starting off with a pair of chamber-like pieces that primarily showcase Raichel on piano.

Programmed rhythms fuel the tracks that follow but the feel stays rather whispery. The tracks are short and many have a lulling quality to them, reflective of Raichel’s recent identity as the father of two small children. Sparse instrumentation in the form of things like accordion, cello, saxophone and baglama stays on the supportive outer edges of the songs, which are delicate in their construction but have their own quiet strength. While not as groundbreaking as Raichel’s earlier material, his latest nevertheless gets to the heart of its matter by being touchingly low-key.

 

Karim Nagi - Detour Guide
Karim Nagi – Detour Guide

 

Karim Nagi has got a thing or two to say about Arabic culture and Detour Guide (Self-released, 2015) says it with percussion, spoken words, rap-like cadences and beat backdrops. Born in Egypt and presently based in Boston, Nagi is out to dispel myths, question stereotypes, recount history, impart truths and make both humorous and serious points about what it is to be of Arabic ethnicity nowadays.

He seamlessly mixes the cheeky with the sincere on titles like “What Arabs Do For Fun,” “Oriental Magic Carpet,” “Heart Full of Cairo” and “If I Were Hummus,” bringing so many observations to the table that you’ll have to listen to this disc multiple times to digest it all. It’s a kind of aural performance art that’s impossible to describe in any significant detail, but a rewarding listening and learning experience just the same.

 

Black Masala - I Love You Madly
Black Masala – I Love You Madly

 

A mashup of Balkan brass, stomping funk, Gypsy zest, punkish energy and Afrobeat syncopation, I Love You Madly by Washington DC’s Black Masala is a rousing fun burst of energy and true musical chops that’ll get you smiling and busting dance moves you didn’t think you had in you. While the music changes gears quite a bit, it does so rightly and tightly, such that the resulting songs are full of infectious instrumental and vocal passion rather than just one hot mess after another. Great stuff.

 

 David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon - Andalucian Love Song

David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon – Andalucian Love Song

 

The musical connections between Moorish Spain, North Africa and the Middle East have been explored before, but seldom as grandly as the work of David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon on Andalusian Love Song (Magenta, 2015). One of Israel’s most respected singer/songwriters, Broza here has a number of his tunes arranged for a 35-piece ensemble of strings (bowed, plucked and strummed), reeds, brass and percussion.

Improvised interludes set the mood between the songs, which range in feel from aching to celebratory (much like the ups and downs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that often figures into Broza’s work). The vocals are richly emotive and the music, under the direction of conductor and arranger Tom Cohen, is unfailingly superb.

 

Avataar - Petal
Avataar – Petal

Avataar, a band led by Toronto-based saxophonist/flautist Sundar Viswanathan, achieves a crackling good mixture of Indian classical music, jazz and ambient frameworks on Petal (InSound Records, 2015).

Viswanathan’s reeds put forth the same sonic sweetness as Felicity Williams’ largely wordless vocals, and the expert support of Michael Occhipinti (guitars), Justin Gray (bass, mandolin), Ravi Naimpally (tabla, percussion) and Giampaolo Scatozza (drums) provides serpentine grooves, nimble melodies and unending pleasure. The music is intricate without being overbearing or showy, and the result is blissful.

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