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
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
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
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
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.