ORIGINS OF THE DUB KIRTAN ALL STARS PROJECT
After a long gestation period and a bunch of rip roaring live performances with the band, I’m stoked that we’ve dropped the Dub Kirtan All Stars’ first EP – ‘SubSonic Devotion’. It’s been quite a journey for David Starfire and I who started the project over 2 years ago…and it’s awesome to see the music come out at last and represent the band and vision.
Grab a free download of the EP here:
I wanted to let you in on my background with his kind of world fusion music as I’m thinking it may seem like an out of the blue maneuver to some of you. So here we go….
The project came about from both David and my long-standing love of Middle Eastern and South Asian music in all its many forms. I still maintain the finger blurring speed rhythms of the middle East’s darbuka players are the original Jungle/Drum n Bass beats ☺ When I first moved to London Dance music (EDM) was going off and there was a slew of bands and producers that were mixing up Electronic beats and Asian instruments, many of them 2nd generation Asian kids who felt as much part of modern British Dance music culture as they did their Asian roots. Bands like Asian Dub Foundation, Fun-Da-Mental, Loop Guru, TransGlobal Underground (which is where we first saw the phenomenal Natacha Atlas who features on David Starfire’s new album) and Talvin Singh (who went on to collaborate with Bjork)
and many others… were all cranking out often political Asian fusion beats that verged on punk in it’s intensity, and directly confronted the idea that to be British meant to be any one skin color, religion or anything else. It was political by the very fact that it was happening in a slow-to-change British establishment surrounded by the children of the colonial empire who were growing up in Mother England unafraid to claim the rights they should have as British citizens regardless if whether they looked or sounded like the royal family or not.
I would go and see these bands play and producers DJ (Talvin’s legendary ‘Anokha’ night at the Blue Note in Hoxton Square was one of the best examples of London’s melting pot futurism even to this day) and at the same time I’d visit the Southbank Center and see the finest traditional Asian musicians play purist classical music, blown away by the intensity of them both. By some unfathomable chance I even had one of the brothers from the esteemed Qa’wali dynasty of Salamat Ali Khan (RIP) in the studio in London after a meeting via a mutual acquaintance at a concert they did in London. Even tho Massive Attack had just remixed Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, I have to admit I hardly knew who he was at the time, but the sound that came out of his mouth when we pushed the record button floored me.
But as time went by I ended up firmly ensconced in London’s Electronic world and other than the odd concert down at the Southbank Art and Music festivals, I fell out of that scene as I grew in different directions musically and had little time for anything else. But in an odd twist of fate the music re-entered my digital bubble thru a side door – via my practice of Yoga. I took up Yoga to help me manage the touring DJ lifestyle which = long hours, little sleep, perpetual jetlag and adrenal rush after adrenal rush (of many different sorts), all in between being cooped up on planes sitting down for abnormally long periods of time. The physical practice Yoga worked a treat as a DJ lifestyle mitigation tool, but unbeknownst to me I had ended up practicing in a traditional Indian lineage, Satyananda yoga, and with it came the traditional call and response chanting called Kirtan….. Full circle. I have to admit I wasn’t into it at first, and at my South London yoga center kirtan was mostly held on the weekends when I was away DJing so, it was a slow start for me. I had become so accustomed to electronic music that when I did hear Kirtan chanting backed by minimal acoustic music, I would hear Bass drops, smokin’ beats and trippy synths buzzing in and around these circular mantras that repeated endlessly like a looped up vocal sample in a rave. But over time as I studied a little more of the Yoga philosophy and got to understand why they chanted the names of the Absolute, the Divine, over and over again, I started to catch a vibe. It was a way of getting beyond the ego, of losing your shit just like losing yourself in an amazing electro, dubstep or Classical tune. And when one of my Yoga teachers asked me to start a Kirtan project, his request brought me to revisit my love of Asian music and it was from here that the seeds for the Dub Kirtan All Stars project were sown. Soon after David (who is a seasoned East/West fusion Electronic producer) and I set a date for a ‘friends and family’ gig in Los Angeles and started feverishly making beats and jamming with our mates who do actually sing and play this stuff. That led to performances at Lightning in a Bottle and Symbiosis Festival, which led to the development of more original music for the project and more collaborations with people in the kirtan world.
You see, neither David or I can play eastern Instruments, or sing like those masters I used to see at the festivals in London, but we can control swarms of musical robots via our music software and it was from this foundation that we built up the DKAS, a group of people who are steeped in both their traditional modalities and in the 21st Century digital world.
The new EP is 3 tracks written and produced by David Starfire and myself featuring the powerful and compelling vocals of 2 of the Kirtan scene’s most talented singers – Chaytanya and Arjun Baba… who are steeped in the traditional modes of their art but have been to their fair share of raves too. The first track, ‘Radhe Govinda’ conjures up images of a Dubstep club in the heart of Mumbai with Chaytanya bestowing the spacious track with a invocation over heavy beats and bass. On ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ Arjun Baba embodies the ‘take no prisoners’ spirit of Hindu deity Shiva delivering a fiery and unrestrained vocal over the top of razor sharp beats and a distorted 303 acid line. The EP closes with the voice of Chaytanya on a delicate rendition of ‘Kunja Bihari’. Originally recorded as a shiver-inducing acoustic Bhajan I augmented it with sparse atmospheric dubs, sweet 70’s funk, and a weighty bottom end sub. I hope this will offer some fresh vibes to fans of both the traditional Asian music and fans of future Beats and Bass Music.
So if you think it might be something that interests you, grab a free download of the EP here: