[India’s energy,] “that incredible thing that happens when you step out of the plane,” is what makes India feel like a second home – the first being Germany – to jazz and Indian-classical guitarist Max Clouth every time. He’s just released “Kamaloka,” and believes the whole album is an ode to the impactful sensory and social experiences he and his band members have had in India.
Experiences such as the one where they played to 2000 college students in Sinhagad, near Pune, India. “They kept calling us back on stage. That positive energy we got from those young people is something I’ll never forget!” Clouth shares from Germany, where he is currently.
The video for “Salt Lassi” actually begins on the runway at the Pune airport. The track has you as refreshed as its namesake drink. Raga Bhimpalasi has never sounded so bold and sassy before. With the video alternating between studio clips of the musicians and the streets of Pune, the music feels as though it captures in notes what you would be thinking if you were in a car traversing the city lanes.
Listening to “Kirwani,” one does want to agree with his own assessment that the Max Clouth Clan, as his band is called, has an intimate approach to both jazz and Indian classical music. The track is about a raga, it’s jazz, it’s a musical Cirque Du Soleil, it’s smooth and soaring Carnatic. It’s the difference between a dish you create out of your own memories of childhood rather than after you’ve learnt it in culinary school.
“Shyam” is an evening of intrigue and perhaps unintended adventure, given that so much of Clouth’s style is about improvisation. It feels like you are club-hopping against a backdrop of a steady, soothing Hindustani current. He describes how it came to be in an online interview, “in Mumbai, evenings [are] so vibrant and there’s a certain beauty about that and I wanted to capture it.” The track could very easily be the soundtrack for the trailer of a masala movie.
Indeed, Clouth has scored films as well, including one called “Masala Chai.” He has also toured with the popular Bollywood singer Arijit Singh.
Clouth’s Clan has it’s inspirational founding in John McLaughlin/ Zakir Hussain bands Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti. He was a teenager when he was introduced to Jazz and Indian music almost at the same time. Later, he formally learnt the Hindustani style under Pandit Nayan Ghosh and for a while, with two legends of Carnatic music: Guitar Prasanna and Ghatam Karthick.
Drummer Martin Standke is the other founding member of the Clan and is also enamored with Indian music- he loves the Hindustani tihais (polyrhythmic beat pattern). They were joined by bassist Markus Wach in 2014, who is also into Indian ragas, (especially Charukeshi) and pianist/keyboardist Andrey Shabashev who is from Russia in 2016.
Kamaloka is the result of Clouth’s spiritual journey when he was compelled to ask, “how can I live in a way that even if I lose everything outside of myself, I won’t be lost inside?” This was created after his mother died recently. Kamaloka in Sanskrit literally means the land of desire, although metaphysically speaking, it’s where souls go after death, to begin their journey onward. (Psst, take a look at the album cover on the homepage of his site!) The album itself has 12 songs and one remix.
Available on amazon.com; more info at www.maxclouth.com
Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music and avidly tracks intersecting points between folk, classical, jazz and other genres.