According to Karsh Kale, the London born and New York raised producer/dj/musician, the title of his third studio release (and most recent album) entitled Broken English, was based on the concept of trying to
"create songs in English, but to give them a sentiment and a sense of universality, so it works in places where English is not their first language. But at the same time, you still understand the sentiment of the songs. That was the original idea of Broken English (link)."
I must admit, I was really looking forward to this third album. To this day Kale's debut Realize continues to be one of my favorites, and I love its remixed incarnation Redesign. I was however slightly disappointed with Liberation, the follow-up to Realize. For me, Realize had set the bar so high that no follow-up could have topped it. Don't get me wrong, Liberation was good, just not great. Perhaps it was Kale's departure from the familiar drum and bass and dance vibe that I was used to, or maybe it was that I thought the cinematic feel of the album was a reach.
In any case, I approached Broken English anxiously, mainly because I had found many recent diasporic desi releases to be trite and mechanical. I was hoping Broken English would be different, and different it was. Wait, is that innovation and musicanship I hear? When I first started listening, I heard hints of Nitin Sawhney through the innovative and non-overtly desi touches in the production, vocals, and instrumentation. Yes the album has Bollywood and Bhangra, as well as the tablatronica that Kale is known for, but it also incorporates hip-hop and rock. All of which work surprisingly brilliant together. While overall, the album presents an eclectic and lush soundscape, Kale stayed true to his roots and kept a few tracks purely South Asian, including among others, the nicely paced "Drive," and the beautiful duet "Some Things are O.K," featuring vocals by Sabiha Khan and longtime Kale collaboratorVishal Vaid.
This album is clearly no East meets West hybrid, and there is no American curry or other Indian food adjectives available to describe the sound. It is what it is: purely American in every complex way that makes an American, an American. You get that sense immediately with the opening track, Manifest (click here for free official download): where MC Napoleon raps alongside Vaid's vocal, while a dhol loop echoes in the background. This is followed by one of my favorite record's on the album, "Dancing at Sunset," featuring Todd Michaelsen's English vocals alongside Carnatic strings and an eloquently placed tabla break and Hindi vocal.
And it doesn't stop there. Sunset is followed by another amazing track, "Beautiful, " which is followed by another and another. Like any solid album, Broken English isn't a couple of good tracks followed by some mediocre fillers. It is instead a solid line-up of thoughtful and diverse music, and will undoubtedly join Realize as part of my life's soundtrack. You can sample the entire album by clicking here.
A Mutiny through Sound
For those of you into ethnic drum and bass, british-asian hip hop, or good live music in general, and if you are in New York this Friday night (3/17), I highly recommend attending the upcoming New York Sub Swara show featuring some of the top south asian musicians/producers around, including State of Bengal (best known for that Flight IC 408 track from Talvin Singh's Anokha record), Navdeep of Mutiny fame, DK aka Bollygirl (Avaaz/Kollektiv), and DJs Bobby Friction and Nihal (BBC Radio 1), among others of course. Click on the image for more information, but rumor has it that pre-release copies of State of Bengal's upcoming album, along with some of the most innovative in diasporic desi sounds will be available at the show.
The show starts at 10 p.m., is $15 in advance
, or $20 at the door, and is @ Downtime, 251 W 30th Street (Between 7th and 8th). 21 and over.
Doing Your Homework Can Get You Arrested
Only Indian kids would go to such lengths to finish a class assignment.
The University of Maryland's student paper, the Diamondback is reporting that three graduate students from India (two men and a woman) were detained and questioned for nearly four hours by Montgomery County police early Tuesday morning for using a device to track wireless communication signals for a class assignment (thanks masked tipster). Neighbors reported the three to the police for suspicious activity because they had been driving through Silver Spring, Md (a suburb of Washington DC) at about 15 miles per hour with elaborate equipment in their rental vehicle.
Yeah, it sounds shady. If a car was constantly roaming around my neighborhood from about 10 pm to 2 in the morning, I too would probably be a little suspicious, especially at that hour. Well, so were the police.
At about 2 a.m. early Tuesday morning while driving through a residential Silver Spring neighborhood, the students noticed a police car following them and flashing its lights. The students were stopped and answered questions about their identities, equipment and assignment, and were then escorted by police back to I-495 and sent home.
You would think it would have ended at that. It is kind of funny, a trio of Indian students geekily get pulled over, not for partying or do something illegal, but for doing their homework. The crappy thing is, it didn't end there.
Police from Montgomery and Prince George's counties rejoined the students at their Berwyn House Road apartments, where after more questioning, an officer copied down the equipment's serial numbers and informed one of the male students his laptop appeared on a list of stolen electronics.Officers detained them there for nearly two hours, questioned them, photographed them, recorded detailed descriptions of their physical appearances and inspected their visas, passports, university identifications and international driving permits.
Now I am a bit confused. Why would the police need to follow them home? The students showed the police their ids, equipment, and explained to the police the class assignment. What was the point in following them home and recording all of their personal data? And the bit about taking the laptop I am not too clear on.
"Everyone was shocked, dumbfounded, speechless," the female student said. "This has never happened before in our lives. I was very angry. I didn't appreciate the harassment." The students were released by officers about 5 a.m. Tuesday and later informed their professor and department.
And yet, it all could have probably went away had they called their professor earlier. The good Indian students that they are, they didn't want to bother him.
They said they didn't want to call us in the middle of the night and wake us up," said Steve Tretter, director of the program. "I told them they were crazy and should have called us immediately." Tretter said he and administrators were upset for the students.