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Tabla player Karsh Kale speaks up about his passion for music

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | NAMITA GUPTA
Published Aug 23, 2016, 12:07 am IST
Updated Aug 23, 2016, 7:25 am IST
Karsh Kale speaks up about his passion for music since he was a toddler, his inspiration — Zakir Hussain and growing up abroad.
Karsh Kale
 Karsh Kale

He has performed for the likes of US President Barack Obama and his guests at the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage month celebration and collaborated with music stalwarts like Norah Jones, Anoushka Shankar, Sting, Zakir Hussain and other bigwigs in the music industry.

“If I were to make a list of all the performances, it would be quite exhaustive,” says Karsh Kale, the Indian-American musician, percussionist, producer and composer of many music albums and headliner at prestigious music festivals across the world. And that’s not all; he has also scored music for many Bollywood and crossover films.

 

On his visit to the city on the weekend for the opening night of the Art Bengaluru 2016, Karsh left the audience spellbound with his surreal style and magical beats. An Indian who grew up in the US, Karsh has a cross cultural appeal.

“I was three years old when I started loving the beat of drums. Even as a toddler, I would take my mom’s cookie tins and play on them; I would play on my dad’s tables, so I always knew that music is what I was extremely passionate about. I had decided even as a kid that music is my world. Although as a kid I didn’t know that this was what I would do for a living. While in school, I was studying music, cello and went to many jazz ensembles and bands and also participated in jazz contests. I also watched many concerts and continued to learn tabla. Since I was a drummer back then, our band would practice at my place and leave their instruments back home to come and practice later. Besides playing the drums, I would also practice with all the other instruments. I blend all worlds of music that I’ve grown up listening to like western and Indian classical music, electronic music and rock.”

He has many solo albums to his credit like Realize, Redesign: Realize Remixed, Liberation, Broken English, Breathing Under Water, Cinema and UP and founded Tabla Beat Science with Zakir Hussian, Talvin Singh, Trilok Gurtu and Sultan Khan. He also released an album called Tala Matrix which is considered as one of the most influential Asian Fusion albums, besides other albums.

Talking of his inspiration, Karsh who studied at Long Island, New York and has won GIMA Awards for best fusion album, shares, “I was always inspired by Zakir Hussain who is known to break all boundaries. I like to play with multiple moods and themes. Since I was studying music production and performance at NYU (New York University), I was lucky to be surrounded by people from the music industry. It was the Mecca of music and gave me a unique spot to play tabla alongside great musicians in different scenarios. I found myself playing with Iranians, Israelis and everyone else. It was a great hub. I was lucky to have been signed up by San Francisco label Six Degrees Records and won a solo recording contract, followed by my first full-length album, Realize. I was invited to tour with Tabla Beat Science, a group started by Zakir Hussain, which I will always cherish.”

He adds how Bengaluru is special to him. “It’s a fun city to play in and I’ve performed here earlier too. I’ve been touring a lot earlier in career, but I’m trying to go a little slow now. I just completed a tour of the Wanderlust Festival in the US. I also played at Mosaic 2016, The South Asian Festival of Mississauga in Canada in August this year. I’m currently working on a couple of album projects and also producing an album for Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan that will release end of this year. I’m coming back in October for an India tour. When I’m not making music or travelling, I like to spend time with my 15-year-old daughter Milan. I sometimes also cook and research on food and try and make an exotic meal.”

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