Is is hard to know whether electronic music and the equipment and software used in itís creation is really pushing music ahead or isolating itself from the human element and emotional content that made music so meaningful for the masses in the first place. It seems that both digital and acoustic instruments each have their place but as time moves forward, some artists are working diligently to bring the two worlds together and as they find the emotional content in each. Karsh Kale (pronounced Kursh Kah-lay) is a long time tabla and electronic musician that along with the rest of the Asian Massive scene, finds much of the same rhythm components of traditional folk music in todayís drum & bass and techno and fuses the two together with incredible results. On his debut album, Realize, Kale uses his own classical training and love for electronic music and merges it with the global talent of his guests that include some of highly skilled and leading musicians of Indian classical music like Sultan Khan and Ajay Prasanna. Because his music merges eastern and western cultures and bridges the gap between electronic and classical music, many will find it intriguing and realize that none of the seemingly different music worlds are actually that far apart.

I read that the new material was created to perform live. How do you perform live with electronic styles of music?
Basically we want to create a situation where we didnít have to rely on any electronics and we were using the instruments to recreate the electronics. All the beats are played live on a drum kit with an electric and acoustic tablas live. My partner who is a classical vocalist and keyboard player also plays he vocoder and sings the acid lines through the vocoder.

How does the song writing process come about when youíre collaborating with other artists and composing for performance?
It depends. Some tracks will start with a beat, some tracks will start with a cord progression, and it really depends on the vibe. The first song on the album went through 3-4 different changes before we really established the way we wanted it. Originally it was a dancehall piece but then we changed it more of a hip-hop organic thing. But there is no real formula for how the tracks get started. I do come to a point where I kind of stop thinking about everything else and really get down to the composition of the track. For me, to perform these tracks live; itís really about creating the musical aspect of it. Just because me may be creating a Detroit house kind of track, it doesnít mean we are going to perform it that way because the actual piece to me is the melody and the cord progressions. From there I would take the rough arrangements and rough cord progressions and then I would sing the idea to the musicians. Most of these musicians are all masters of their instruments and they would take what it was that I was singing to them and take it to a whole different level. Then they will take those pieces back and try to revamp and recreate the song again.

Tell me a little about your musical background and how your solo work came about.
Iíve been playing tabla and drums since I was four and got into music because of my dad. I moved to New York about ten years ago and was studying a NYU and right away started playing Tabla and drums for a lot of different hip-hop groups and rock bands. Eventually it got to the point where I wanted to do my own thing so about four years ago I decided to take it solo and build a studio and really start to create my own music and create my own vibe.

When kind of material do you like to play for your DJ Sets?
I spin a lot of different stuff. A lot of the material is my own unreleased work and lot of other artists from all over that havenít released their music yet. I like to play stuff that hasnít been released yet and being able to travel and get the word out about all these other artists.

How has the response been from the traditional folk artists that have heard your material?
You know Iíve been actually getting a really good response. Iíve been given great support from two of the biggest names in Indian classical music and other artists that before they heard the record were very curious about what it was that I was doing. Also, a lot of people are just DJís or just producers so to see a tabla player get into it from a different angle in interesting to them cause I do play classical music as well. By going back and forth and working with Bill Laswell I was able to meet a lot of these artists on my album and they became very interested in what was going on. There are also a lot of artists coming through New York and at one point there were no producers here working in this genre. I guess the word was getting out about my work and I met them.

Sometimes the press will pigeonhole music scenes and pick individual artists as the figureheads. Being that youíve been labeled one of the leaders of the Asian massive movement, could you tell me more about the scene and how you perceive your role within it?
I think the Asian massive thing came about as an answer to the Asian underground thing. All of it at the end of the day is just artists trying to make music but massive kind of refers to the fact that the scene is larger then just London. Itís going on all over the states-itís going on all over India. When I spent three months in India working on the album, I was really surprised to see how many DJís and producers are out trying to make it happen. Theyíre kind of dealing with the same sort of problems we are dealing with here (U.S.) in that itís hard to get the mainstream industry to give an ear to it. In India there is these huge raves with thousands of people and these huge sound systems. It blows my mind to see how many artists are doing there thing and how many of them are traveling around Asia and connecting with artists in Hong Kong and Singapore.

I understand youíre involved with a number of other projects and writing material for TV and films. Do you remix other artists as well?
I did some stuff for NBC about four years ago for this tantric sex theme show and I also scored for a film called Chutney Popcorn. Right now Iíve sort of downshifted on the remix thing because of the live shows but I am working on two remixes right now for a couple of bands. Before the album came out I was doing a lot of remix work and it was a good way for me to get the vibe out as well.

Do you think youíll continue to remix work?
Oh yeah, I love doing remixes for artists that have absolutely nothing to do with what it is that I do and I get to kind of reinvent there work.

Since the vocal work isnít in English, are there intended meanings in the songs? I saw that you have performed for the UN World Without Poverty conference and the World Peace Summit. Are there any political or social issues addressed in the music?
Not really, what I like to do when weíre creating lyrics for pieces-a lots of them are devotional lyrics and in Indian music, lots of times they get translated. A lot of lyrics are to the beloved and can kind of be translated into love songs but for me I find it really important to be able to keep it universal so people can sort of make their own meaning. I grew up listening to a lot of music that I didnít understand the lyrics to but it meant a lot to me anyway. I didnít really want to emphasize what the lyrics meant on the album so people could create their own meanings.

Any upcoming projects we should know about or artists that you would like to collaborate with?
There are a lot of artists out there that I would love to collaborate with. Iím a big fan of Sting and I actually got to work on a remix of "Thousand Years" off his new record. But I would love to actually sit down and write with a lot of artists. Right now the opportunities have been more on the remix side but I grew up listening to synth pop like Depeche Mode and I love pop bands like Sigur Rós.

I guess youíre probably receiving some comparisons to Talvin Singh?
Oh yeah but thatís kind of what has been happening for the last five years or so. We kind of find out about each other right before his Anokha album came out and thatís how we met. My roommate at the time was good friends with Talvin and told him about me and we were both invited to play a show in Atlanta and since then weíve been working together.

Have you worked on any of his material?
Yeah actually I played drums on his last record and I have two tracks coming out on the new Anokha record.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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