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Karsh Kale Collectiv ӬTo Release Debut EP

The New York-based artist teams up with bandmate Warren Mendonsa for new album

Lalitha Suhasini Oct 09, 2013
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Karsh Kale. Photo: Siddharth Dugha

Karsh Kale. Photo: Siddharth Dugha

An eight-member group is a tricky ship to steer. Exactly a year ago, multi instrumentalist and producer Karsh Kale brought the Karsh Kale Collectiv, an ensemble that may just get bigger than an octet soon, to stage for the first time. It wasn’t a smooth sail and the group sounded like they needed a better sound set up and more time together. Their next gig was a triumph of both Kale’s ability to lead and what the individual players brought to stage.

This year, Kale and his bandmates are rising to a new challenge in releasing their debut studio recording. Says Kale in a phone interview from his New York home, “It’s been quite an adventure and we’ve been going in a lot of different directions. I’ve got 24 tracks of music and will be paring them down for two releases maybe.”

The producer, who shuttles between New York and Mumbai, has roped in Mumbai-based guitarist and sought-after producer Warren Mendonsa, who is also part of Karsh Kale Collectiv, to work on the album. Says Kale of Mendonsa, “It’s hard to find a musician like him who is that good and also manages to write so well.”

One of the tracks that both Kale and Mendonsa are sure will make it to the EP slated to be released at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune this month is “Shiva” sung by Chennai-based vocalist Benny Dayal. Says Mendonsa, “Benny’s great at improvising and “Shiva” is pretty much all there.” Adds Kale, “We wrote that song in a day. I’d just returned from a great day at [music director] Salim Merchant’s house and I began playing the idea for the track on the piano and we performed it the very next day at Blue Frog.” The rest of the EP was a work in progress, when we spoke to the musicians in September. Says Kale, “It’s sounding like a marriage of rock, electronica, cinematic ambient sound.”

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The key of course is to ensure that the EP sounds like one cohesive collaboration. But Kale is not really boasting he says that he knows how to get the best out of each musician. We’ve seen proof in both his Collectiv and when he led the Bacardi NH7 Weekender All Stars finale in 2011 in Pune. Says Kale, “The reason I’m able to do this is because I’ve played several roles ”“ DJ, guitarist, bassist, vocalist, folk musician, Carnatic musician ”“ and I know what the individual musician is aspiring for on stage.” We had to ask: Is there anything he can’t do? “I’ve tried to play the flute and just cannot, but of course, I love the sound of it,” admits the 38-year-old with a laugh. Which is why the Karsh Kale Collectiv includes the talented Ajay Prasanna.

Besides wrapping up the album, Kale and Mendonsa have taken on the task of musical directors to bring the Weekender festival to a close. “At first, it’s always chaos, which is why I make lists and more lists of musicians and music with a general graph of how the show should progress,” says Kale, breaking down the process of guiding a stage loaded with musicians for an all star finish, “I’m treating it like a play with an intro, middle and a climax.” The Karsh Kale Collectiv and NH7 All Stars will perform at the Bacardi Arena stage at all four editions of Bacardi NH7 Weekender. 

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This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of ROLLING STONE India.

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