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How Meditation, Pop Music and Mystical Poetry Influenced Kohra’s New Album

The electronic music producer-DJ’s latest album ‘Akho’ was released via his own long-standing label Qilla Records earlier this month

Anurag Tagat Jul 23, 2020

New Delhi-based DJ-producer Kohra at Auro, New Delhi. Photo: Gig Click (Shubham Gupta)

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As it turns out, the notorious “Log kya kahenge?” (“what will people say?”) stereotype of Indians and public perception followed even a seasoned electronic music producer like Kohra. New Delhi-based Madhav Shorey, who released his new album Akho on July 13th, says he was yearning to take risks and break out of expected house and techno sounds for his latest record. “[It’s] that kind of thing where I want to experience all styles of music and also work with it because I don’t want to miss out on any style,” he says.

The result is 10 tracks of shapeshifting, tunneling, genre-jumping music that takes influence from Akho, a 17th century mystic poet-philosopher born in Gujarat. Through the course of Akho, Kohra works with ambient, drum and bass, electronica, plus techno and house as well. Another formative influence to the process was Kohra’s inclination towards meditation over the last two years. “I started training and started meditating and  completely stopped partying and stuff like that, even though I was playing a gig, so everyone else was partying. So it just put me in a different mindset where I wanted to push myself more in terms of the kind of music I was writing,” he says.

Sonically, when he was in the producer’s chair in front of his gear, Kohra drew from what he calls “my most exciting years of dance music” including the early 2000s. “There was a lot of unity in the music scene back then also.” With clarity and clean eating on his side, he says the music of Akho emerged on its own, not necessarily through compulsion. Production-wise, Kohra mentions Michael Jackson’s pop records as a reference point of sorts. “Not so much the music, but I liked the way it was produced, the dynamics and it wasn’t just loud and cheesy pop,” he says.

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Aiming for a variety of emotions, Kohra dove into mostly instrumental electronic music that leaned on vocal melodies for “emotion.” He adds, “I also wanted to keep it very timeless. I’ve kept it very open-ended.” On the opening track “Jiva,” for example, Kohra teams up with harp player Nirupama. “It [the harp] is such an old, really pure and timeless instrument that’s come down the years.”

With Akho out, Kohra has been writing more music in lockdown, but rues the loss of live gigs and a lack of government support to artists, pointing to how countries like Germany have been proactive towards monetary packages for musicians. “Ours is an industry which is first to shut and the last to open in these kinds of situations. It’s very heartbreaking to see. Of course, with the population and the number of people we have under the poverty line, artists can’t expect so much. There’s no committee or support system we can go to here,” he says. Kohra is writing music but still worried about sustenance, while trying to stay “mentally fit.”

The DJ-producer is also concentrating on the release plan for his label Qilla Records, which he says has a packed year until December in terms of new music. He adds, “There’s a lot of really good music from Indian artists which I’m most excited about. Because I think finally, we’ve come to a point where we have enough artists in India to put out world class music so I don’t need to reach out to the country. This was the reason we started Qilla.”

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Listen to ‘Akho’ below. 

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