Indian-American Karsh Kale's latest work premiered as the finale piece by the prestigious Bang On A Can All-Star orchestra in New York

He is one of electronic music's leading fusion artistes and he segues smoothly from being composer, producer, and tabla player, to being an overall showman. Indian-American Karsh Kale has made his mark on the global music scene with genre-bending fusions of electronic, Indian classical, rock, jazz and hip-hop. Known for his collaborations, Kale's work with a wide spectrum of artistes including Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Sting, Anoushka Shankar and Herbie Hancock is a testament to his versatility and unique musical talent.

Last month, the music connoisseur tasted success of a different kind. Kale's work entitled “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly” was premiered as the finale piece by the prestigious Bang On A Can All-Star orchestra in New York for which he won tremendous acclaim. Quite notably, this was a huge honour for the artiste as it was also the first time he composed a piece for an ensemble other than his own.

In a telephonic interview, Karsh says: “The whole experience of working on this piece and having it commissioned by a festival of this magnitude has been truly fantastic. But more than anything there's so much I've learnt in the process.”

Speaking of his piece, which won much adulation, Karsh explains: “These are four important movements that inspired me while composing. Each of these movements is different from the other. Each has its own struggle and its own resolve and it was a challenge to capture each of these movements into something musical.”

A predominately self-taught musician, Kale grew up steeped in classical music and film music from India and has harnessed his ingenuity and experimental nature to develop his signature “Electric Tabla” style. “Possessing physical dexterity, understanding the language of music, seeing an instrument and understanding how it works, as well as spending time around musicians and instruments have helped me come this far,” Karsh says.

He adds: “If my father, who himself is musically talented, didn't take it upon himself to encourage me to take up music, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. I even recall going and watching the drummer across our street play. But the turning point in my life as a percussionist would be when I encountered Ustad Zakir Hussain and had the opportunity of collaborating with him. More than being just an icon, he has always encouraged me on a personal level. When I think of the amount of time he has put into his craft, I'm fuelled to do likewise.”

Kale has also been active in the world of film, scoring for both crossover and Bollywood films with his production team MPKK with the Midival Punditz. “Karthik Calling Karthik” was their first project. He is also known for his production and remixing skills for the dance floor and beyond, including mixes for artistes such as Paula Cole, DJ Spooky, The Cure, Midival Punditz, Yoko Ono, and Anne Rani. His music has also been used in television series and most recently in HBO's “True Blood”. He has recently completed his fifth solo album titled “Cinema”, which is due for release this year.

For the album, he's put together an all-new ensemble called “Cinema Live” featuring Tony Grey (legendary bassist), Chris Buono (guitar), Jamshied Shariffi (keyboards) and with guest Dorian Cheah (electric violin).

With MPKK, Karsh Kale is currently working on their second Bollywood film as well as collaborating with Shekhar Kapur on a project.

He spends at least two months of the year in India, but now that he's working on more projects, he says he's begun to spend more time here. “There's always something that beckons me to India,” he chuckles as he concludes.


Sound and serenity March 21, 2011

Transcending boundariesMarch 9, 2011