Kendraka is an Indo-Jazz-fusion band based in Kolkata, a fascinating group of musicians who seamlessly blend and fuse vibrant aspects of Indian classical music with the absorbent niches of traditional jazz fusion. Kendraka is also a Sanskrit word for ‘Nucleus’. While the band has undergone a few changes in lineup since its inception in 2008, it primarily serves as the launch pad for the creative energies of bassist and founder, Mainak Bumpy Nag Chowdhury.
Souvenirs and Memories is a double-CD release covering their first two albums Tathastu and The Candy Album.
Tathastu, released in 2010, is their debut album which comprises material drawing inspiration from hard bop to fusion jazz à la Weather Report.
‘Nuclear’ kicks proceedings off in a fashion that would soon be identified with the Kendraka sound winding riffs, patterns and abstract soundscapes -volatile yet succinct amidst chaos, with drummer Jivraj Satya Singh’s big-band-ish drum interludes stemming from influences from the likes of Max Roach and Gene Krupa.
‘19 wishes’ is a Vijay Iyer type slow burning ballad, with intricate tabla over fluid guitar work. ‘Pluto‘ is a spacey jam in 7/8 time, also the longest song on the album. ‘Jack in the Box’ and ‘First Take’ are run away jams, continuing the theme of overall confusion based much in the line of ‘Nucleus’.
‘Winter Drizzle’ and ‘Transition in Monsoon’ cover two seasons welcome by most Indians with textures varying from breezy idioms to razor sharp guitar work. ‘Waiting For the Sunshine’ finishes the album much like an unmatched parenthesis, leaving loads of much tension to be resolved in the future albums.
While Tathastu might easily be passed off as the smoothest musical representation of curvilinear geometry or quantum mechanics, fans of jazz-fusion in the style of Mahavishnu Orchestra and the like will certainly dig the record, it remains to be seen if the mainstream Indian rock fan base has an ear for this consummate potpourri of eclectic musical experiments.
Candy Album (2012)
While their debut album Tathastu (2010) was complex jazz fusion with confusion being the theme, Candy Album is quite the opposite – accessible, bourgeois, devoid of frippery and minimal on technical acrobatics whilst throwing a fresh perspective in colors onto the staid canvasses of Indian Fusion.
The album opens with ‘Khaniker Dekha’ which opens with a short bass alap on the beauteous Bilahari raaga, and culminates into a slow rhythmic jam with neat interplay of Bumpy’s raga bass lines with Bodhisattwa Ghosh’s jazz guitar comping. The guitar solo though short is all jazz and may alienate non-jazz listeners first time. Soumyajyoti Ghosh’s flute solo is haunting, while the Mridangam adds depth to the overall texture.
‘Thirteenth Hour‘ is my pick of the album. A rhythmically tight piece with an addictive mellow riff in the moonlit Kaapi raaga harmonized on the bass, guitar and flute, embedded with Bodhi’s sparkling guitar tone, grows on you on repetitive listens.
The aptly named ‘27 Steps to Chaos’ is the darkest track on the album. There’s liberal confusion of calm amidst the rhythmic chaos with contrasting serene flute interludes, fractured guitars and rap references of Tolkien(gosh, everyone uses Tolkien a lot) and Hindu Mythology (or maybe Amish Tripathi?)
‘The Jive’ is a free floating, latter day Mahavishnu Orchestra-type jam piece with a rhythmically complex yet lucid main hook. Just the one wacky squealy solo from Bodhi and the band returns to the twisty main theme before heading into the final track ‘Ode to the Wishful Passage’. ‘Ode…’ has a deep, melancholy theme of the final passage of the human soul(as laid out on the album cover). Bumpy’s bass playing is highly evocative and introspective, paints a picture of a man in agony silhouetted on the banks of the Benares.
Travelling quite deep emotionally than the tiny informative quips on the liner notes, Candy… culminates into a sedate, self-inquisitive journey. Kendraka’s cohesiveness is a notable mention, mostly an approach wherein the bass leads and guitar comps in the background.
Kendraka’s double-CD album is a good place to start to understand what’s brimming up in the Indian Jazz-fusion scene. Souvenirs… is an absorbing multi-listen with melodic and harmonic depth, setting up an interesting future for Kendraka and their growing fan base, with a direction more towards Carnatic rock in true terms of the word.