Chinmaya Dunster reviews Karunesh’s latest album.
Two years in the making, and richly supported by singer Anand Richa (co-composer on three of the four tracks on which she sings), Indian bamboo flute wizard Bikram Singh and Govi (Poona One’s Govindas) on guitar, sitar and dobro, as well as players of duduk and violin, Sun Within has turned into Karunesh’s most epic production yet. His trademark mix of sampled grooves, keyboards and acoustic musicians, produced to the highest technical standards, has been a winning formula for almost twenty years now.
I have followed and supported Karunesh’s journey in making this CD since its beginning, recording Richa in Pune and Indian backing singers in New Zealand. It was a time of challenging personal circumstances for him, many of which contributed to the length of time it took him to complete the album. The result is a tour de force and extends Karunesh’s musical vocabulary immensely.
The five vocal tracks in Hindi are successors to his hit song ‘Punjab’ from the CD ‘Global Spirit’ of 2001 but have the added depth of original composition. Richa’s exact command of pitch and clarity of enunciation make her the perfect companion to Karunesh, ever the perfectionist himself. I originally recorded her composition ‘Nache’ (track 8) for my production of her own CD; as well as ‘Piya Ghar Aye’ (which has become Track 6 ‘Gentle Touch’) for my private pleasure simply because I loved it. Now both these originals have been broadened and deepened. But it is ‘Desert Traveller’ (sung by another friend from Pune, Ankita) that most pleases me, because rather than using Indian and Middle-Eastern instruments and vocals on top of what were essentially Western structures as in the past, I feel Karunesh has finally dived into a truly ‘Eastern’ vibe.
Karunesh is lucky to be neighbor on the island of Maui, as well as close friend, to another musician with an almost obsessive attention to detail: Govi is a musician’s musician, known to practice on his numerous stringed instruments for hours each day. His sitar, guitar and oud playing have featured on many of Karunesh’s CDs over the years (as well as his own). I have tried to record myself on sarod for Karunesh many times, but it seems that only Govi can supply the absolute precision of pitch and tone required! A minute and a half solo on Track 7 ‘Oasis’ provides an example of his unconventional approach to the dobro; while a couple of minutes of sitar on Track 3 ‘Moula Mantra’ has me envying the clarity of his sound.
The album concludes with ‘Baile del Soul’, a piece that sticks out so absurdly far from the rest of the music that it paradoxically actually works: a bit of salsa that I know has been hanging around for ages looking for a home. It avoids the traditional by being spiced up by some lively Indian bamboo flute and I can just visualize Karunesh obsessively cutting and pasting this over hours, then days, even weeks to make it fit. If you are looking for music to listen or dance to in a relaxed and heartful mood, then ‘Sun Within’ is for you. Just remember to turn off before the final track unless you want to jump suddenly into high energy Latino!
Review by Chinmaya Dunster
Listen to the first track on Osho News: Aeon
Available to download from itunes.apple.com
Karunesh was born in Cologne in 1956 and became a sannyasin in 1979. He released his first album ‘Sounds of the Heart’ in 1984 which quickly became a classic in the New Age genre. He has played very often for Osho during the White Robe meditation. Karunesh has been living in Hawaii since 1992 and his music has now expanded more and more into World Beat/World Fusion. www.karuneshmusic.com