Would Delhi/NCR pull it off? The question had been coming up ever since the NH7 Weekender The Happiest Music Festival announced its foray up north. Given Delhis past disastrous relationship with any big concert, doubts abounded. Amid much cynicism, tickets were bought, plans were made and expectations were given the freedom to soar. As the day drew closer, the excitement in the air was palpable. Some of the best acts in the country were going to enthrall us. Megadeth was headlining. For those of us who had seen them in Bangalore, attending a second live gig would give us bragging rights. This would surely be memorable. Like I said, expectations took flight. But did they soar? Read on to find out.
After an 80 Km drive from Gurgaon, I found myself at the Buddh International Circuit, host to Delhi/NCRs sophomore edition of the The Happiest Music Festival. The grounds seemed to be huge, the stages were generously spaced apart, there seemed to be a decent variety of grub, and the flea market was slowly coming to its own.
My first stop was at the Dewarists stage, where the trio of Aditya, Suhail and Tarun (AST) got things going. Although not familiar with their music, I nonetheless enjoyed the few songs that I heard. The only hitch was the poor sound. Sound glitches, as we shall see, made their presence felt at multiple stages throughout the two days, much like Warren Mendonsa, who flitted from one stage to the other, only, his presence was mesmerizing.
Anyhow, after AST, I made my way to the Black Rock Arena, where Vir Das and Alien Chutney were up next. For his comedy rock act, Vir Das was backed by two supremely gifted musicians Warren Mendonsa on guitar and Sidd Cuotto on drums. He raised quite a few laughs with his songs about Banging your mummy, the stinking friend that everyone has in BO is my Deo, a Haryanvi mans bedroom preferences in Village Man, the tendency of Punjabi mundas to grow Man boobs. He ran through the periodic table in The metal song, praised Delhis girls make up miracles and denounced all J.K. Rowling characters as whores. His set was peppered with expletives and his lyrics were delightfully offensive. I saw many people laughing and squirming at the same time, especially a teenaged girl whod turned up with her dad. Both were doing their best not to look at each other. Must have made for an awkward conversation post the set. Some may have dismissed Vir Dass set as being crude, but he got the crowd going, and he elicited more than a few laughs. Granted, he is no Stephen Lynch, but if you were buying what he was selling, you wouldnt feel shortchanged.
I strolled back to the Other Stage, hoping to catch Barefaced Liar unplugged. But all the sound glitches had led to delays, and I found Parvati and Mawkin just about to start. And for the next half hour, I stood enthralled as Parvati on vocals, Mawkin on the guitar and Natalie on the flute brought forth their brand of magic. It was serene, it was otherworldly. I did not understand a word of what they were singing, their tracks mostly being in Spanish and Portuguese, but I came away elated. And thats when it started to hit me that we need more of these festivals, so that music lovers get introduced to musicians we would otherwise never hear about, let alone watch them live. Yes, the NH7 Weekender was coming alive for me.
And now, back to the Black Rock Arena. Boy, this is turning out be quite a bit of walking! Id missed out Indus Creed and Zero was up next, also, by now a sizeable crowd had built up. Zeros frontman Rajeev, resplendent in a stovepipe hat, took the stage with a very Brit I say, old chaps and Zero kicked off a firestorm. They ran through their catalogue of hits such Old man sitting on the back porch, Hate in Em, Stop and Lucy, the crowd singing along lustily. The band was so tight, their stage presence so compelling, one would never guess they play maybe just once a year.. Bobby Talwars fluid basslines locked in tight with Sidd Cuottos immaculate stickwork, and Warren, well, he was just magical. His playing is so restrained, never too many notes, fast when fast is needed, but always melodic, never flashy. Is he the best guitar player around? I cant think of anyone else who comes close. By the time the quartet get around to their iconic PSP12, they have a moshpit going (which was rather annoying, truth be told, with a bunch of juvenile delinquents pushing everyone in sight) and the crowd had been transported to another world.
A bit giddy after the display of sheer awesomeness, I walked (a couple miles, it seemed) to the Fully Fantastic stage, set up in the memory of the Grandfather of Indian Rock, Amit Saigal. I was very much looking forward to Menwhopause. Sadly though, they seemed to be having a bit of an off day. Sound continued to play spoilsport. While singer-bassist Randeep tried his best to involve the crowd, something seemed amiss, and the people started trickling out. I trudged back, more than a little disappointed. Would Pentagram have been a better choice? Judging by crowd response, the answer seemed to a resounding YES. Oh well.
Final act of the night Parikrama. They opened with the very catchy Vapourize Nitin pushing his vocal chords to the limit. They followed that up with Am I dreaming, Load up, Gandalf, going steadily downhill. The vocals went awry, band members seemed to be missing cues, and the only saving grace was the violin virtuosity of Imran, who was in his element. The good part I finally saw Parikrama play an all original set. They were saving But it rained for the end, but ran out of time, and had to take a rather abrupt bow.
Well, so far they day had been a mixed one. The sound left a lot to be desired, some bands disappointed, while others shone bright. Zero was the highlight of the day for me. Could any band better their performance on Day Two? Oh, and no beer on a music festival? Even though Bacardi is the sponsor, ale deprivation is plain wrong. I stuck to sobriety and 7Up it was for me. Cut to the bright side again the organizers put in a great deal of effort to ensure the audience got a happy experience. Bringing in the mobile ATMs was a very thoughtful touch.
The long drive, the almost equally long walks and the occasional bout of excitable bodily contortions to the music on Day One meant I woke up in a distinctly ramshackle condition the next morning. But all that was soon forgotten as popped in some Megadeth and turned the volume to eardrum damaging levels. It was the big day. I was going to see Megadeth, again. Yay! But before that, quite a few more bands to listen to, some more new music to get acquainted with, and who knows, maybe get blown away by!
I made my way to the Fully Fantastic stage, and pretty much spent the evening there. First up was Ankur and the Ghalat family. Ankur Tewari, backed up by the prolific Sidd Coutto on drums, Johan Pais on the bass, and Niranjan Pozy Dhar (of Tough on Tobacco and Shkabang fame) on guitars, made for a great start to the proceedings. His simple but easy to relate to lyrics and great melodies had the audience singing along, jiving. Ankur regaled the crowd with songs about being broke, political clout in Delhi, Chand chahiye about a materially demanding girlfriend, and Yaari about well, yaari. His easy connect with the crowd was a treat to watch. The band displayed they have a sense of humour too. When the sound problems surfaced again, the band, instead of going silent, sang an ad-jingle for Bajaj lights from way back when. Ankur Tewari then crooned his signature Sabse peeche hum khade. I had a feel good lump in my throat after listening to their set. Later on I bumped into him, and told him how much I enjoyed his song and could I buy them online? His humility, when he said thanks and I could get some songs online at Flipkart, is something I will not forget.
Next, Them Clones took the stage. They were accompanied by Nikhil Rufus of Indigo Children on bass, while Adil Manuel subbed for guitarist Joseph. They played a tight set, belting out their hits, and had the crowd singing along. For their last song, Zephyretta, the band was joined by Abhay Sharma on the saxophone. Amazing how a single instrument can alter the whole sound of a band. The last track was a moving experience, and the strains stayed with me long after the song ended.
Rudy Wallang and Tipriti of Soulmate tore into the stage with their brand of red-hot blues. Rudys guitarwork was a masterclass in blues playing and Tipriti poured her feelings out with her voice. The one catch, again, was the sound. Too loud and too trebley, it marred an otherwise awesome set.
It was now the turn of Blackstratblues and friends. Warren was joined by Jai Row Kavi on drums and Adi Mistry on the bass, and he showed, again, why he is so in demand. I am running out of phrases to describe his guitar playing. Always in the pocket, never playing too fast, never playing too many notes. And always putting melody first. We have our own Eric Johnson here! Karsh Kale took over the drum duties and Apeksha Dandekar showed off her vocal prowess. As it turned out, Mr. KK can really play drums. Wickedly well. Nikhil DSouza, Vishal Dadlani, Uday Benegal, Prithwish Dev all took the stage with the man playing the Blackstrat and the crowd, which had swollen by the minute, lapped it all up.
It was now time for the big one. The Black Rock Arena was crowded with black tees, and more were sweeping in. The backstage cam focused on Dave Mustaine as he queried Are you ready for Megadeth? a huge roar went up, anticipation building up by the moment. Megadeth take the stage to massive applause, and immediately launch into Trust, off the Cryptic Writings album, followed by She Wolf from the same album. The one thing that becomes apparent is that surprisingly, the sound folks have failed to get it right for Megadeth too. Chris Brodericks guitar sounded too loud and whiny, while Mustaines vocals and guitars seemed to be controlled by an on/off switch. David Ellefson was pretty much inaudible too. Apart from the messed up sound, another downer was Mustaines patronizing speech in the middle, where he droned on about how he appreciated people coming out to see them, having had to make so many sacrifices, and spending money. Thanks for your concern Davey, but all of India isnt exactly destitute. Blah! Talk about stereotyping!
The crowd, though, was living it up. The masters then chugged through their Countdown to Extinction album. Tracks such as Symphony of destruction, Skin o my teeth, High speed dirt and Sweating bullets led to many a sprained neck. The crowd sang along to every song, hysterically, ecstatically. Megadeth played two songs off their new album Thirteen Whose life is it anyway and Public enemy number one. Youthanasia, surprisingly, got just one nod, with A tout le monde. Megadeth threw in Hangar 18 in the middle and ended the proceedings with Holy wars. I sorely missed Tornado of souls, but then everyone has their own deth favourites. The band took a last bow, Mustaine saying Thank you, youve been a great crowd, weve been Megadeth. As the speakers went silent, I had the last hour rushing back, reliving the Megadeth experience. The line from Turn the page playing repeats in my mind The echoes of the amplifiers ringing in your head. Did the Megadeth experience turn out to be what I expected? Did the four-year wait seem worthwhile? In all honesty, the answer is no. I went to watch Megadeth expecting a whole lot of anarchy, and came away with a little bit of malarkey.
Thus ended the Delhi debut of the NH7 Weekender. Judging by experience, the claim of The Happiest Music Festival is not entirely unfounded. It was well organized, the audience was well cared for, and it showcased some fantastic music. The 300 km drive, the aching body, the decimated throat were all worth it. It reaffirmed my faith that live music trumps recorded music everytime. Granted, the sound flattered to deceive. But I am sure that will be looked into, next time around. I cant wait!
A historic concert was held on February 7th 2012 : the farewell performance to the city of Bangalore by sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka Shankar. The concert ‘Farewell to Bangalore’ was organised by the Premanjali Education Trust as a fundraiser for their various projects.
Its past concerts have featured vocalists Bhimsen Joshi and Balamuralikrishna in a duet. At a book launch earlier in Bangalore, Ravi Shankar said, “Music runs in the veins of every individual, and it is the thread that binds us all together.”
In the first half of the concert, Anoushka Shankar played a 40-minute set accompanied by Pirashanna Thevarajah (mridangam) and Tanmoy Bose (tabla) on percussion. Dressed in a dazzling white dress, Anoushka began by saying it was wonderful to be back in Bangalore, and to be playing along with her father. “I could have had no greater honour than to have opened for my father in this concert,” she said. She opened the performance with the evening Raga Puriya Dhanashree. The next piece, based on Raga Bhilaval, featured a beautiful solo by Ravichandra Kulur on flute.
She ended the set with a piece based on Raga Vachaspati, called ‘Variant Moods‘. Originally composed as a duet with violin featuring Joshua Bell, the piece had solos from all the four musicians. The acoustics were perfect in the packed indoors hall, with a huge backdrop of garlands creating a triangular shape.
After a short interval, Pandit Ravi Shankar himself walked on stage. Almost 92 years old, he had the support of a walking stick and was unable to squat in the traditional cross-legged fashion on the floor, choosing to sit at the edge of a platform instead. He also had a full flowing white beard, very different from his usual clean-shaven look, and joked to the audience: “I hope you can recognize me!”
The entire audience of over 3,000 people stood up to welcome him as he greeted them: “Namaskara, Bengaluru!” He also joked that due to his age he would not be able to run as fast as his daughter and the rest of the musicians, but he would try his best. His depth of knowledge and skill later showed in the jor and jhala phases of classical music as well as melodies of folk compositions.
He began his performance with Raga Yaman Kalyan, which he said was his favourite raga. Starting off soulfully, the piece picked up with a jugalbandi between father and daughter. This was followed by a raga composed by Ravi Shankar himself, Tilak Shyaam. During the announcement he coughed, and apologised: “Sorry to be so unmusical!”
The next piece started off in Raga Khamaaj and then evolved into a medley of other ragas (Kiravani, Bageshri, Hansadhvani, Peelu), kathak and folk songs. Sanjeev Shankar also accompanied on the shehnai, and there was a superb call-and-response session by the tabla and mridangam players who then fused in a perfect crescendo.
A special treat for music fans was hearing the sitarists play with a small towel on the strings, producing a muted effect; the towels were then removed, revealing the full rich sound of the sitar in all its glory. Ravi Shankar thanked all the musicians, reading out their names from a sheet of paper, explaining that he could not trust his memory! He also introduced the maker of his sitars, Sanjay Sharma.
Though in his nineties, the veteran musician displayed remarkable energy and skill, an inspiration to all in the audience, who thanked him with a standing ovation and roars of approval and gratitude as he waved to them. The musicians on stage all touched his feet, and he departed with Anoushka guiding him by the hand. The audience sensed one chapter of musical history closing, but another chapter opening with the passing of the baton.
If there is one Indian city that has advanced well on the professional front, and still holds the pulse of the personal space, then it has to be Bangalore. It makes news for being India’s IT hub, but there are regular mentions of its city life too. Musical concerts, dance festivals, and theatre are regular occurrences on the Bangalore stages.
The talented daughter of Pt. Ravi Shankar was recently in Bangalore, to promote her latest album Traveller. Bangalore’s famous open-air amphitheater in UB City was slated to serve as the venue for her performance. But this was not going to be a usual one. Anoushka had chosen to fuse her Indian classical rhythms with Spanish Flamenco.
The audience was curious as to what would the outcome of Indo-classical and Spanish Flamenco be, and so was I when I entered the crowd at UB City. The much-awaited moment arrived, and Anoushka gave her distinguished start to the musical evening. She opened the kit with a harmonious, but unconventional, Raga Bhairavi while a minimalistic sound of Tabla and Tanpura backed it up.
Her choice of Raga was unconventional because Bhairavi is traditionally sung at the end of Hindustani concerts. This had come as a surprise for those who expected the customary start to the event. This Raga was the only one that was performed in the pure classical style. As the event progressed, she introduced the flavour of Flamenco and though she had begun with the light sounds of Tabla and Tanpura, the other members like Guitar, Shehnai and Percussion joined in, along with the vocals.
The true connoisseurs of Indo-classical music would know that the 6 beats of 16 beats pattern was readily complimenting the other sounds, but the majority of the listeners was there for music, not the technicalities. They could sense that the beautifully executed jugalbandi between the sitar and guitar, and the Percussion and Kunnakols was flawless. As they say, appreciation is the fuel for an artist. The crowd was cheering, and the performances were gaining impulse. The entire on-stage execution seemed well-rehearsed, as not a single beat or strum was out of place. No single instrument worked any less, or any more than the perfect limit!
Anoushka’s main motive to perform was to give an insight of her recent release Traveller. But since the mood was all set for the evening, she did not shy away from experimenting with several other aspects. Her set, which had started with Raga Bhairavi, had begun to reach the lovely Khamaj and the famous Carnatic Raga Keeravani. Anoushka then proceeded to sing a soft song that aimed directly at the hearts; she seemed a bit diffident initially to perform the ‘Love Song’, but when she did, she left the crowd asking for more. Finally, she concluded the evening with the beautiful Raga Jog.
The knock-down voice of Sandra Carrasco was doing justice to the Vocals. Melon Jimenez was good at the Flamenco Guitar, and El Pirana managed Cajon and Spanish Percussion. These three musketeers added their own tone to create a magical fusion. Sanjeev Shankar made his mark in the performance with his emotional Shehnai, though it sounded forced at some places. London’s Prasanna Thevarajah brought about the true colors of Carnatic music with his splendid variations at the Carnatic instruments- Mridangam, Ghatam, Morsing and Khanjira. He also worked on Kunnakols at some occasions, and proved the mettle of his dynamism. Though Carnatic Percussion is not generally chosen for Hindustani music, he pulled it off really well. Tanmay Bose set a good ambience with his Tabla too. I am an old admirer of the Tabla and have witnessed the different variations it has been used with at numerous concerts and I felt that there was yet a lot more scope for Tanmay’s improvisations.
This was sure an experimental endeavor trying to dig out connections between Indo-classical and Flamenco. Perhaps that is the reason it felt like a dose of Filter Coffee and Coke. The blend did go down well, I must say. The ones with an inclination to either of Indo-classical or Flamenco could not have found anything better than this evening.
Anoushka Shankar has evolved as a music virtuoso, some people attribute it to her genes, and some to her inherent talent. Her immense control on her tones was a delight to witness. Those who wished to spend the evening drenched in music had got the best they could at UB City.
Karsh Kale is an Indian American producer, composer and musician, known for melding Indian music with the modern electronic club music of his American upbringing. Kale often creates a unique blend of Indian percussion with techno music and drum & bass. WTS got talking to him about his style of music, collaborations and more…
WTS: You grew up in New York but you showed promise as an Indian percussionist from an early age, how did that happen?
Karsh: Well I was first introduced to Indian music by my father who’s a great lover of Indian classical music and of course old film music. That’s the environment I grew up in. So the tabla and mridangam, the sounds of those things were introduced early on, and then I just naturally caught on. My father was very close friends with a film composer from India, they grew up together. We used to visit him when I was a small child. His name was Bal Barwe, he’s a Marathi guy he lived in Bombay, and he generally composed for Marathi films. He and my father had grown up together, so he brought me to him when I was about three years old and that was really the first time that I’d ever kind of played the tabla and from there I was always interested in it.
WTS: Your father played a major role in your musical development. Could you tell us more about that?
Karsh: Besides the fact that he was always playing music, he was the Vice President of an organization called the Indian Academy of Performing Arts, which was an organization in New York which used to bring Indian musicians. This was back in the time before people were playing in places like Carnegie Hall etc. They would organize concerts in high school auditoriums, so when I was growing up I got to see people like Bhimsen Joshi, Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia. So I really got to be backstage, meet the musicians and spend some time with them and things like that. My father’s also a singer and he plays the harmonium. So I grew up accompanying him and we played a lot of Marathi community events in the States. And then of course at home, at least four times a week he would be sitting with this harmonium and have me come and play with him. So a lot of my development came from that as well.
WTS: Tell us a little about your musical background and how your solo work came about.
Karsh: Ever since I was a teenager, I started composing music, and started playing with different sounds because I was the drummer in most of the bands that I was playing in and of course there were all those instruments in my house, so I started learning with them, and we had 4 track recorders and 8 track recorders, so I started composing early. Once I came to New York as a student at NYU, I really started to see how I could take all of these different musical influences that I had from everything: from orchestra music to rock and roll to jazz, and that time electronica was something I was getting really interested in, and how I could take all of that and bring it together into one sound. And also, at the same time the technology helped too, being able to start making music in your own bedroom using computer software and things – that was coming up as well. So all of this happened at the same time and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time, being in New York. Being able to be around a lot of different inspiring artistes, who were doing something similar – taking their culture, and incorporating it into a new idea, that was really what inspired me to start developing a sound. From 1993 to the end of that decade was when I really developed a sound for myself and found the places that I wanted be able to go as a composer and as a musician.
WTS: How would you describe your sound?
Karsh: That’s a tough question to answer. I think I’ve always tried for the past 15 years to try and describe the sound but I’ve never really found the right words. But I would say that the way that I describe my sound is creative. Once people hear what it is that I’m doing and the different places that I’m referencing it becomes clearer. Simply put, it’s a mix of Indian classical music, rock and roll and electronic music.
WTS: Do you plan to drift into other genres as a matter of experimentation?
Karsh: I already have. For me, even trance or psy-trance or techno or tech house all of these different sub genres of electronica, I don’t like how they become controlled by purists where it becomes stagnant. It becomes like still water for me and starts to stink if that makes any sense (laughs). Music has to continuously flow and it has to continuously evolve and as soon as you define it as something it stops developing. For me, that’s why I don’t like those terms like tech-house or something like that because that to me is like still water.
WTS: What kind of material do you like to play for your DJ Sets?
Karsh: I play all kinds of different stuff. We just played a show the other night, myself and The Midival Punditz, where we were DJing all kinds of music – everything from electronic ghazals to Jay-Z remixes and Rage Against The Machine to Underworld – we have really run the gamut of all the different kinds of music that we love. When it’s presented that way, people really understand you as an artiste because they really see the different places that you’re coming from. Those are my favourites of the DJ sets but I play everything from trance, to house to dubstep to drum and bass. But when I come back to creating my own music, I try not to fall into the trappings of creating a particular style and borrow different things from different styles to create something new.
WTS: How has the response been from the traditional folk artists that have heard your material?
Karsh: From the get-go, I have gotten a very positive response. On my very first album, I had got a call from Ustad Sultan Khan who happened to be in New York and he said if you’re working on an album I’d like to come down. Besides that, I have mainly been working with local artistes. Once these artistes started getting involved in what I do it was definitely very encouraging. Since then I think that more than listeners and more than people who keep the construct of the institution alive, the musicians and the artistes themselves – theyabsolutely understand where the music is coming from and more so they see where it can go in the future. That’s why we get so much support from people like Zakir bhai and Pandit Ravi Shankar, they have great respect for what is it that we’re trying to do and where is it that we can try and take it.
WTS: You’ve collaborated with a number of artistes including Anoushka Shankar. How has the experience been and how does it help you musically?
Karsh: For me especially, I don’t have an actual formal Guru who I turn to for musical advice, I’ve always listened to my own voice, my own instincts. So when I get to work with people, it’s a learning experience for me as well, I try and absorb a lot from them. Working with Anoushka for instance, we didn’t just go to the studio for a couple of weeks and write. We spent almost 3 years between the time that we started writing the music and between the time we released and started performing the music. Being around her and learning so much of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s repertoire through that and being in the studio with people like Shankar Mahadevan and Vishwa Mohan Bhat – these are people who you learn from when you’re writing with them , and when you’re recording with them. So I’ve had the opportunity to be around such great artistes. I tend to absorb what’s around me. For me, I’m fortunate that I can really absorb a lot from an artiste if I’ll be able to spend time with them. So, what I learn from collaborating with people like them is that I take a little piece of them with me.
WTS: Tell us a little about your musical background and how your solo work came about.
Karsh: Before I work with different artistes, I tend to assess what it is that they are going to bring to the table. Because for me, I can do a lot of different things – I can sit down a guitar, on a piano, on a computer and start programming and I can sit on tabla, harmonium, and start training Indian minds and things like that so it depends on who I’m working with. When I was working with Anoushka I was mainly playing acoustic guitar while she was on sitar. And we were trying to figure out the different places where we can take these traditional lines and bring them into a western context. When I’m working with The Midival Punditz our frame of reference is different. I might be sitting and programming with them and Gaurav might have composed some keyboard parts, so it really depends on who is bringing what and I try to fill in this gap. What we did with ‘Karthik Calling Karthik‘, I was doing more string arranging while these guys were doing a lot more of the electronic programming sounds which all came together to make the soundtrack. So it really depends on the project and who I’m working with.
WTS: Tell us about your association with The Midival Punditz.
Karsh: Well we’ve done a tremendous amount of stuff together (laughs). We met in 1998 in London, and we had both been playing each other’s music in our DJ sets. At that time it was very exciting to meet artistes who were doing something similar because all of us started with the feeling that we were alone, that we were the only ones trailblazing this sound. So when I met the Punditz, we met on a musical level but firstly we got along on a personal level so well that we’ve become family and over the years our families have become family as well. In that way that’s first and foremost what our association had become. But then more than anything, we recognized that we bring so much to each other, because we come from such different places because they tend to come from a DJ culture even though they grew up listening to rock music and are very well versed in Indian music, from film music to Indian classical music. So we get to meet on a lot of different levels. When I can sit with an artiste and reference Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar and Stravinsky at the same time that’s when the associations, for me, tend to continue and that’s what it’s like for me and the Punditz. We can come together on so many different levels.
WTS: Is the audience an important factor to consider while composing?
Karsh: I think it depends. We need to think differently when we are working on a project like a film because first and foremost you’ve to think in terms of the director’s vision. It’s not just your own artistic vision that you’re adding, you have to be in line with the main theme and the main idea of the story and what the vision of the director is in the direction of the film. When I was working on Cinema, I really kind of went in and every time I’d hit a wall and think this is what’s expected of me, I tended to turn the other way and do something else that I felt going to be more challenging. But that’s what I like to do as an individual artiste but if I’m working with somebody else and they say I want to do something for the radio then I know how to think that way. Personally, I would much rather challenge my audience, make them scratch their head a little bit and then come back and realize and discover something new, as opposed to giving them something that they have already heard before.
WTS: For a performance such as yours, what do you aim for in your music? People don’t seem to realize skill in such music, what do you think of that?
Karsh: I think that just comes from people’s ability to be able to see it in different ways, visually being able to see a concert and see what people are doing because otherwise, we don’t necessarily know what we’re hearing when we listen to a piece of music unless you hear live music and see how they interact with electronic musicians and things like that, because this is a new phenomenon as well. What we’re doing now in a live context is taking the aspect of electronica and DJing and bringing together the aspect of interaction between musicians. I think the audience is growing with more and more that they get to see of what it is that we do.
As far as what we want to accomplish, I think it’s more on a level of making people have an experience, letting them lose themselves. For me that’s what music is. Music is an intoxicant that takes you to another world, takes through your own thoughts and animates your life. That’s what we try and do with our music, we try and let people go into their own space and let this music become the score for their own life. As opposed to drawing their attention to my fingers or to somebody’s skill on the sitar, which is impressive when you see a concert, but it tends to take away from the cerebral experience, what we try and do is focus our music more on the mind experience. For me, there’s a fine line between music and sports (laughs).While growing up as a table player, as a drummer, I grew up in that competitive environment but I realized right away that is not where it ends for me, music is much more than that. It goes beyond than somebody’s doing or their dexterity on the instrument, it goes to what is the story that’s being told and how profoundly can you tell that story.
WTS: Where do you think the future of electronica lies?
Karsh: When people say electronica, it’s almost as if it’s something different or separate from live music. I think it’s just another instrument and another dimension that’s been added to music. So when people see music in the future they are going to see musicians who have incorporated technology in whatever they are doing. Think of the tabla, as a traditional instrument the way it sounds today is not the way it sounded even 50 years ago. There’s a lot of technology involved and there’s a lot of audio analysis that has gone into how to present the music on an international platform. We can’t think of electronica as something brand new and challenge that. It’s just a natural progression of something traditional. Because otherwise there’s no way to fill that space with sound and there’s no way to be able to make those instruments so eloquent. All these great artistes have been part of the development of these instruments. And now I use electric tablas on stage, I have modified my tablas so that i can go through the laptop and modify the sounds, and I can control the instrument, but what you’re hearing is something certainly new.
WTS: Tell us about your connection with Bollywood and about your upcoming projects.
Karsh: Bollywood is something we’ve always talked about, not as a style but as an industry that we’d love to break into, that we’d like to use as a platform to expose what we do as artistes. It was once again a natural progression for us to get to that point where the audience is ready to hear what we’ve been developing all these years. If you look at any scene or any exposure for a particular style of music, you’d think that it became popular when it was discovered. But usually when you look into it there are years or decades of development that went in to that before the major or general audience came to know about it. What I feel what we’re bringing to it now is a natural progression because it takes time to develop something before it is time for it to be exposed.
WTS: You’ve expressed a desire to work for Hollywood projects, has anything come up yet?
Karsh: We’re not doing anything right now but we’ve collaborated with a lot of independent artistes in the States, we have worked with Ajay Naidu, who’s a Hollywood actor and has his own independent film that he’s produced directed and we have done the music for that. It’s called Ashes which is now playing in film festivals across the States and of course we have higher hopes to do more. For us it’s not necessarily about Hollywood/Bollywood as much as it’s about a good film. Rahman for that matter – he’d just done a Hollywood film last year and it wasn’t a very good film, but it was Hollywood. I think the differentiation has to be made about a good film because genres put out all kinds of different products. As an audience we have to differentiate between what’s quality and what’s not.
WTS: You’ve said you enjoyed collaborating with Sting the most. What was so different in this collaboration?
Karsh: Well I think for me it was that I got to write the song as opposed to him coming and writing the song with us. When we worked with Norah Jones on the album, we sat together and had written the song together. He’s another hero of mine, he’s somebody I had been listening to since I was 12 years old, studying his music and style, even when he was with The Police and as a solo artiste. Getting to the point, writing a song for him was like a final exam, it was that moment where you have to prove what you know and I had to prove it with a man who for me is one of the best song writers in the world. To be able to write something like that is like writing a novel for Shakespeare!