A new — but hardly inexperienced — group of musicians, Mystik Vibes, releases their debut album on October 5.
Mystik Vibes was so named after an audience member from an early concert commented on the mystic feel of one particular song. Percussionist Muthu Kumar and flautist Amith Nadig met by chance at a concert at a housewarming ceremony, and decided to keep playing together. The band saw several different line-ups. The current form of the band, with pianist Aman Mahajan and bassist Mishko M’Ba, has hit one milestone: they will release The Shadow Tree, an original album, tomorrow.
Muthu Kumar, an established percussionist, has trained in tabla under both Ustad Alla Rakha Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain. Today, besides offering tabla classes and playing in local bands, he works as Lucky Ali’s accompanist — this is how he met Mishko, who plays bass for Ali. Aman, who has trained at the Berklee College of Music, was active in the city’s concert circuit, and so the four came together.
An album because…
The band sees itself as primarily a live outfit — why, then, is an album necessary? Besides its ‘milestone’ value, Muthu thinks it could have an instrumental value. “An album helps us get gigs,” he says. “It adds to the promo kit.”
Through the interview, each musician present (Mishko, based out of Auroville, could not make it) slips into admiring stories of other band members’ prowess. They enthuse about how easily Mishko reproduces a tune on the bass, after only one listen, or about how the flautist doesn’t restrict himself to Carnatic. Amith, a well-established Carnatic flautist, sees his Carnatic training as providing the framework for his fusion work (he offers an analogy: a Carnatic concert is like a game of Test cricket, while playing with Mystik Vibes is like T20).
Muthu offers that a central reason their experiment works so well is because each musician has a level of expertise — and confidence — with his instrument. “We are at the same talent level,” he says.
It’s easy enough to believe, especially after a quick travel through their CD. Amith is insistent that they do not want to be the kind of fusion band that plays “Vathapi Ganapathim with a guitar”. Indeed, The Shadow Tree can be broadly described as having a jazz-fusion framework, but there are many pleasures within the album not contained by that descriptor. There are bass and piano solos that fit squarely within the raga of the song being played, but offer a completely new shade of the raga; Amith’s flute often leads compositions in terms of melody, but also indulges in various experiments; there’s percussion that both provides ambient ‘feel’, as well as a foot-tapping quality. The Shadow Tree will be launched on October 5 at BFlat, Indiranagar, with a gig by Mystik Vibes.