Nadaka is a most lucky fellow. Born in Canada, at the restless age of 15 he traversed across Europe, to the gates of the Sahara, through the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and finally to India, where he has been living for the past 30 years. While in India, he has been fortunate to have studied and performed with some of that country’s most venerated musicians.
He periodically scored soundtracks for several documentaries and concerts. In 1990, when commissioned to compose and direct the music for a children’s feature film, Nadaka was fortunate to meet the renowned percussionist Vikku Vinayakram, who had toured with John McLaughlin’s groundbreaking Shakti in the ’70s. From there, he would subsequently interact with Indian musicians of equal caliber, including two violin prodigies, brothers Ganesh and Kumaresh, and later on, the outstanding percussionists V. Selvaganesh and Shivamani. (Talk about travelling in the right circles!)
Celebration features Nadaka on guitars and vocals (in Sanskrit) along with the venerated Ganesh on violin and Shivamani on drums and percussion. As one would rightly surmise with this particularly talented trio, the album is a compelling admixture of East and West instrumentation and styles. Nadaka, performing expertly on acoustic and 12-string guitars, charanga, bass guitars (fretted & fretless), tampura and vocals, also provides ample space for his cohorts to show of what they?re made.
It doesn?t take long to become enmeshed in the album?s alchemy. Upon hearing the first measures of the opening, title track, Celebration-Kondatam, one is immediately smitten by its sonorous, joyful energy. Kudos to recording engineer Didier Weiss and Nadaka as producer for capturing the timbres and verve of each instrument on this transparent recording. Here, Nadaka’s guitar sounds almost larger than life, with rich bass sonorities reminiscent of the custom-made guitars played by the California Guitar Trio.
It’s particularly a treat to hear Shivamani shine as the principal percussionist on this album. Like Trilok Gurtu, he’s able to incorporate his hybrid Western drum kit into an instrument of emotional expression within each song’s tala (rhythmic cycle). He’s certainly deserving of wider recognition among world percussionists/drummers.
Ganesh is no less as impressive on the violin. Whether doubling the ornate vocal line, or trading solos with Nadaka, he is string player of formidable talent, perhaps even among the likes of L. Shankar and L. Subramaniam.
All four of the album’s tracks are subdivided into three parts, each with varying dispositions and tempos. This dodecasyllablic project has much to offer fans of East/West fusion (for lack of a better term). It may not feature as many fiery passages as some other world fusion projects, but that in no way diminishes its success as an album of stature in this remarkable genre.