To travel, you must listen

Indian-American musician Karsh Kale, who was recently in the city, on his memories of childhood being a key component in his compositions

Today is the eve of Karsh Kale's performance at the second edition of the York Live Festival in Nasik. His next stop takes him to Delhi, where he will perform on the day after Republic Day.

Pic/Anja Matthes

We caught up with the artiste considered a key figure in the Asian Underground scene, to ask him about his latest album, Cinema. Excerpts from the interview:

Can you tell us about Cinema?
I grew up in New York, so I had a very different take on Indian films through the American landscape. Also, I have been listening to Indian classical music and film music from the '60s and '70s since I was a kid. The film music that I listen to ranges from Hans Zimmer to AR Rahman. The soundtrack of a film is always highlighted, but people often miss the background score, which can be very powerful, as the same piece of music when used effectively can either make you laugh or cry. This is what led to Cinema. As a kid, I would listen to sound and create my own visuals to accompany the music in my mind. The sound from Cinema is like that: You close your eyes and visualise something, while you absorb the music. The music is like my memories. For example, my father would be playing something in the car, but then my brother would change the song and play Led Zeppelin instead. The album is a mix of those sounds.

What about the album's sound?
There is an emphasis on strings, there is orchestral arrangement, tabla, sarangi, sitar and heavy Rock. The music is like travelling. I frequently travel between the States and here, and the music, like travelling, helps bridge the gap.

Speaking of bridging the gap, can you tell us about your collaborations with other artistes on the album?
I have collaborated with both Indian and international artists, including Ajay Prasanna on bansuri, vocals by Visha Vaid (from Medival Punditz), Pandit Mukesh Sharma on sarod, Monica Dogra (Shaa'ir + Func), Shruti Pathak, Salim Merchant, Todd Michaelsen and Anne Rani, who is a pop artist from Denmark.

How different is Cinema from your previous albums?
My previous albums were more Electronic. For Cinema, I wrote the music on acoustic guitar and piano. It is an organic album, more sophisticated, and a step up from my previous work.

Has composing for the Hindi film industry impacted your music?
I like to challenge myself. I pick up something from everyone I work with. Rather than have one guru to teach me, I create by learning from different people. And the Hindi film industry too is a part of it.

Cinema was released abroad in 2011. Why the delay in releasing it here?
I had some scheduling issues, as I was busy touring at the time. The India edition will have a lot more music and a few remixes. I have been working on this album for a couple of years, and the result is some 30 to 40 pieces. So, there is a lot to look forward to in the album.

The album will be released in March.

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