By Samir Shukla
NY-based group Akshara's debut album In Time fuses timeless Indian music with layers of contemporary musical ethos. The album's five tracks weave South Indian (Carnatic) classical with jazzy, western classical and folk rhythms into an intriguing blend. The astute musicians infuse bansuri flute, cello, mridangam, cello, violin and tabla with vocal scats.
“At its root, Carnatic music is very complex and mathematical," explains classically trained, New York-based mridangam (South Indian double-headed drum) player Bala Skandan in the liner notes. “That makes it interesting rhythmically, even for seasoned Indian musicians."
Skandan is the ensemble's leader and composer.
The album's five tracks (clocking in at more than 50 minutes total) are an exploration of possibilities of Indian music that are meditative, trance-inducing, and joyfully percussive.
“Mind the Gap" opens the collection with galloping tablas and foretells, musically, of what's to come.
“Mohana Blues" opens with a meditative bansuri and highlights both konnakol (spoken rhythmic patterns) and tabla, as well as floating strings.
“Urban Kriti" is a rolling work beginning with hammered dulcimer that sounds like santoor. The cello moves in and out like a slithering creature. Tabla and mridangam play happily along with each other, picking up speed and building layers.
“Opus in 5" is the longest track and emphasizes the scatting, percussion and violin.
“Shadjam" could be an ideal track to accompany a Bharat Natyam dancer, emphasizing scats and violin.
Other than the vocal scats (konnakol), this is an instrumental recording.
More details at www.aksharamusic.com