Nadaka & the Basavaraj Brothers
Happily, in the rousing world of East-West fusion, there continues to be pioneering artists who experiment and successfully concoct their own worldly amalgams. The Beatles, Shakti/Remember Shakti, L. Shankar (& Gingger), L. Subramaniam, Ravi Shankar’s ground-breaking works, Curandero, Trilok Gurtu, Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Vinayakram Brothers, and Prasanna are among the top echelon of these fusionistic forerunners.
To that esteemed roster one may rightfully add the Quebec-born guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, Nadaka. Since moving to India three decades ago, he has immersed himself in both India’s music and philosophy. Which, given the depth of both disciplines, is saying much. Dedicated to the ideals of India’s revolutionary yogi, Sri Aurobindo, as a resident of the international settlement of Auroville in south India, Nadaka has been privileged to study with some India’s master musicians, including percussionists Vikku Vinayakram and Shivamani. In other words, Nadaka?s understanding of ragas and talas is an integral part of his being, not just a passing musical novelty.
Living Colours reflects Nadaka’s organic perception of Indian music; it’s something he lives in, not just with, everyday. Five brothers, the talented, well-trained sons of reputed Indian flautist Sudharshana Rao Basavaraj, join him. Along with Nadaka?s custom-made, scallop-fretted acoustic guitar, there are bansuri, silver flute, violin, sitar, tabla, mridangam, ghatam, kanjira, tampura and vocals (including bhols-rhythmic syllables).
There are several standout tracks throughout the well-crafted album. The epic piece Chakra, which clocks in at nearly 30 minutes, gives each instrumentalist and percussionist a well-deserved opportunity to shine. Divided into eight sections, each features various combinations of percussion and melodic instruments (i.e., Index 9, guitar solo with kanjira; Index 10, violin solo with ghatam; Index 12, flute solo with mridangam; etc.). The final section features a rousing duet between mridangam and tabla — albeit too short.
The playful Caprice begins with a meandering minor key in surya raga performed by Balasai on silver flute, Raghavendra on violin, Shivaramakrishna on sitar and Nadaka on acoustic guitar. Suddenly, the violin sets the rhythmic cadence with short, staccato strokes, as Nadaka jumps in with a Robert Fripp-like ostinato on guitar. Violin and flute pirouette around each other’s melodic lines, as the other instruments pulsate the subdued 7/4 tala. Interestingly-perhaps for some, disappointingly-the song ends without any further development; the two percussionists sit this one out.
Nonetheless, each track is strong in and of its own right. There aren’t any superfluous moments here. Hence, this album unquestionably deserves a venerated slot in anyone’s library of East/West Fusion and/or Classical Indian music. Its subtle (and at times overt) brilliance will be treasured throughout repeated listening sessions