Karsh Kale’s Cinema has already claimed the #1 position on iTunes World Music, #3 on Amazon’s International Music, and spots among Top Tens in Electronica and Dance/DJ music charts. Kale’s decade-plus old career started with his Electric Tabla, which gained him popularity in the local band scene in New York in the late 90s as a drummer. Six Degrees, a relative newcomer to the music labels then, signed a multi-album record deal, “making him the very first Indo-American to attain a solo record contract in the States.” It is claimed that Kale’s “Realize,” his first solo international release, gave the Asian Massive (Underground/Electronica) scene sustaining momentum. He has continued making inroads in other settings as well; he scored for the musical Elizabeth: The Golden Age, as part of Midival Punditz Karsh Kale banner, and is a sought after composer in Bollywood; Mira Nair’s The Namesake featured his “Flight IC480”. Microsoft’s Vista comes with 2 of his songs, “Distance” and “One Step beyond.“
In Cinema, he deviates from his usual edgy-electronic style to a more homogenized, settled sound, more A.R.Rahman-like, if an analogy is to be drawn. Incidentally, he opened for Rahman at the Hollywood Bowl last month, where the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra played several of Rahman’s film scores.
To the mainstream audience, this album might present itself as a well-done remix of cinema-scaled soundtracks. To followers of Kale though, it presents a different, film-scoring-inspired side of him. It is more Indian for one, and less experimental for another. It is definitely not a crossing for a new frontier in electronic music. But it is extremely easy on the ears, and will uplift.
Cinema also seems to be a compilation of all current rising musical stars, and as such can be seen as a record of 2011 in parallel music. Kale features Bollywood playback star Shruti Pathak, of Bollywood movies Kurbaan, Fashion fame in “Ma,” (which also has excellent vocals by his daughter, Milan). “Peekaboo” presents a soul setting to rock sensation Monica Dogra, of indie Indian rock band Shaa’ir and Func. “Man on Fire” is more reminiscent of classic Kale, an electronic soundscape with classical Indian touches, in this case the sitar played by Pandit Sunil Das. “Mallika Jam” is get-on-your-feet stunning, featuring Danish pop sensation with Asian roots—Anne Rani. Ghazal trailblazer Vishal Vaid renders the Umrao Jaan movie number “Zindagi Jab Bhi” into Kale’s “TurnPike.” Kale has certainly to be credited to have elevated so-called synthetic music to a level worthy of tastefully treating a ghazal; in other words, it is no ordinary re-mix.
Kale has of course written the scores of all the tracks, but as performer, he has cast himself as equal participant or supporting cast throughout the album. “Ma” has him performing straight-cut and brilliant on the electric guitar, tablas, synth bass, and keyboards; “Man on Fire” has him primarily keyboarding.
The timing of both Cinema and Vel is important; we seem to be on the cusp of a great wave of Indianization of world culture: Raman and Kale have shown us how to take our music to a waiting world, on a path blazed by Rahman.