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Taken from The Hindu (Mar 10, 2017)

Drop the beat with Karsh Kale

Karsh Kale’s DJ tour takes him back to the stage, where it all began


It has been four years since Karsh Kale wore his DJ hat. He’s been busy, of course, jet-setting from studio to studio, recording for too many projects to keep track of. As he gears up for his upcoming tour, he can’t help but reminisce about the time he brought independent music to the Indian stage.

“When I started back in 1999, this is all I was doing. Bringing Indian classical music into the electronic space was my focus back then,” says the composer-tabla player-drummer-producer-DJ who performs at The Leather Bar today.

Things have changed drastically since then, and time has seen Kale collaborate with the best of both East and West. He’s recorded with the likes of AR Rahman, joined hands with Benny Dayal, been part of the highly popular Coke Studio series, and released seven albums.

“When I was growing up, every new thing seemed cutting-edge. I felt like I was adding fuel to the creative fire and I focused on a particular style, as you should when you start out.” A myriad of influences for the UK-born, New York-bred musician helped expand his horizons, leading him to Zakir Hussain, Alicia Keys, Anoushka Shankar, and a host of others. “Now, I’m a much bigger part of a larger fraternity of music. It’s about the music now, not the surroundings.”

There’s a creative movement, he says, and as he reflects on over 20 years in the industry, the novel discoveries are what keep him inspired today. “I can sit down and hear an old Johnny Cash or Frank Sinatra song now – it’ll lead me to something completely new.”

Of course, he never meant to set trends, and yet, his fan following is ridiculously loyal. Ask him how, and he says the secret is simple. “For me, staying relevant has always been about being honest. The trends have been shifting ever since my first album, but luckily, I had a host of senior industry members encouraging me. I chose to ride the wave and be true to my musical sensibilities.”

In Chennai, where he’s recorded and visited a multitude of times, he’s welcomed with open arms. “The city has always treated me well, and the musicians are some of the freest people, ever-evolving.” Revisiting the stage here, as both a DJ and tabla artiste, has Kale excited. “The tour is a throwback to where I came from. It’s home ground.”


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