A track from the album Yoga Lounge, featuring Niladri Kumar, presented by Chinmaya Dunster.
I first heard Niladri Kumar play in a duet with virtuoso multi-percussionist Shivamani in Buddha Hall at the Osho Commune, Pune in 2005. I’d been involved with Hindustani Classical music since the early ‘80s, but I’d never heard anything like him.
Niladri is an Indian sitarist who is almost at home with Western music as he is with being a master of his instrument in the classical style. At one point in that concert he broke into “I Once Had a Girl…” as part of his classical performance. Sometimes he was fingering his sitar like a guitar and producing chords.
I went straight off to meet him afterwards and we hit it off immediately, so I arranged to go down to his home in Mumbai to record an album together. I found this cool guy in shades who was equally comfortable in the dry ice and laser lights of the city’s cutting edge clubbing scene and the rarified atmosphere of the Mehfil, the genteel gatherings of poets and connoisseurs of the spiritual tradition of Indian classical music.
I had brought with me some loops of tabla at varying speeds for him to play to but the moment he heard them he said, “If I play to that I’ll worry about what the old masters who are looking over my shoulder are thinking!”
Luckily I had a mini-synthesizer with me and whipped up some contemporary hip-hop beats, which he declared perfect. After that I simply recorded his playing for as long as he wanted. We had to pause recording occasionally whenever a low-flying aircraft came in to the nearby airport and we had to get out for some Indian street food in the middle of the night for a break.
I edited the material back in Pune and added bansuri (bamboo flute) played by the wonderful Manipuri flautist Bikram Rajkumar Singh. I then took the project home to New Zealand to finish it off with piano, bass guitar and percussion.
I took the still unreleased master CD down to Mumbai to Niladri the next time I was in India. He insisted on having it blessed at his local temple. New Earth Records in America titled it (it was the time when yoga was the latest craze and they would have been hoping for extra sales by linking the music) and released it later that year.
Sixteen years later Bhikkhu and Waduda at New Earth Records, who have been enjoying Niladri’s sitar all this time, have decided to give this little-heard album a new prominence. To me it’s a gem.
Chinmaya Dunster: keyboards, bass, programming
Niladri Kumar: sitar
Bikram Singh: flute
Avinash Jagtap: violin
Kalyan Mitto: cello
Link for streaming and downloading: newearthrecords.com
Comments are closed.