KARSH KALE (live) with CHE DUBOIS, FREESTILEZ, the TABLA GUY, ENLIGHT and DJs MEDiCINEMAN, MALIKA SHARA and NICODEMUS at the Bambu (245 Queen's Quay West), Friday (May 30). $25, advance $20. www.suhana.ca
If Indo-techno producer/musician/DJ Karsh Kale hates being referred to as the American Talvin Singh by lazy critics, he sure doesn't show it when the topic comes up. That could be because he and Singh are long-time friends and collaborators, but it's probably also because he's well aware that his own history places them alongside each other chronologically, and not with him as a follower.
"The scene in the UK is one generation ahead of us, since the first wave of immigrants from India ended up there first," Kale explains from his New York home. "Because of that, the UK community is much more close-knit. Everything that was happening there was also happening over here, but since everybody is so spread out geographically over here, it wasn't as close a scene and didn't get as much attention from the press."
Kale first made his name collaborating and playing tablas with such heavy hitters as Bill Laswell, DJ Spooky and Herbie Hancock before coming out with his debut album, Realize, in 2001. The sound combined drum 'n' bass elements with classical Indian music as well as bits of rock, hiphop, pop and ambient. Now about to release the follow-up, Liberation, Kale is eager to get back on the road again after taking some time off to start a family and record the album.
"Having a baby had a lot to do with how this album turned out. Going from being on the road all the time to spending a lot of time at home, I've made in some ways a more personal album.
"This album is a lot more live. For me, it was about the rebirth of the band. What I really love is the interaction between musicians - I know how they play, so I can just give them the sketch of a song and they take it in their own direction."
While it's true that there are lots of acoustic instruments on Liberation, it still sounds more like a studio project than a band. Kale explains that when they play live they leave most of the electronics at home, stripping the songs down to their most important elements.
"We don't try to reproduce the album live. Because the compositions are based on Indian classical music, we can improvise around the songs and play them different ways."
To strict traditionalists the connection to classical composition might seem tenuous, but Kale claims that the response he's gotten from old-guard Indian musicians has been overwhelmingly positive. The perception seems to be that even if the young people are listening to tablas mixed with drum machines, at least they're still listening to tablas.
"The older generation for the most part feels that this is another doorway into the music, kind of like with Ravi Shankar and the Beatles."