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Jeremy Pearce - 10 Apr 2019


"It fascinated me ,watching the constant re tuning and pitch setting of the 2 drums. Watching some kind of perfection that only a player of this kind of level could pick out with his ears and adjust to his exact desire "

I 1st heard Karsh on a cd sampler called Asian massive that I bought in a record shop in Kerala over a decade ago , with a Zakir Hussain cd (I missed him up Love Supreme last year because I got locked into a set in the tent next door ) and 3 Prem Joshua albums and Ravi Shankars the Rivers .

I reached the Jazz Cafe about 8pm just as the 1st set was about to begin and the 1st thing that I noticed was that 98% of the packed crowd were of Indian/ Asian origin and it felt like I had walked into a music venue full of affluent 20 -30 something couples  in Mumbai  but I was in Camden town and this was London and Karsh had come over from the states  to play a set with a young seriously talented Santoor player that he had found  in New York ,who plays the instrument like no one else has before .They both speak with American accents even though Karsh was born here to Indian parents who emigrated when he was 7 (See links ) 

The stage is set up with the Santoor on the left ,then Karsh's Tablas and beside them. Before the DJ booth, he had  set up   2 pioneer cd mixers which he used both later on in this set and the second when he was live remixing backing drum and bass and tracks using a pair of top range Sony Cams . He used a track that he cut with Anoushka Shankar  and re worked it live , accompanying  with the Tablas.He reworked a Zakir Hussain piece too  .It facinated me , watching the constant re tuning and pitch setting of the drums .The drum on the right he would hold up to his ear and then hit the rim with a silver hammer and then smear white paste on the skin .This drum had a lead attached to it and was internally mic 'd up  .The one on the left had wooden staves that he would move up and down, to alter the tension of the skin .Both drums sat on cushions with 2 external over head microphones, set on angled stands Karsh had his finger nails painted black and I was watching them against the white drum skins ,standing out in contrast and the feathering of the surfaces with his palms ,dampening and changing sound .This was the 1st time I have any recognition of watching someone play a Santoor .Its Dark hard wood bodied with many strings and bridges  played with light wooden mallets called Mezrab  like some mad strung glockenspiel crossed with a horizontal harp .This is the nearest way I can describe it to someone who had never heard one before .This 1st set was more traditional and I marveled at the speed and delicacy of the playing and they locked in some almost telepathic rhythmic beauty .as clouds of dry ice enveloped the blue stage lighting  .The 2nd set was more dance orientated .Karsh is famous for his remixing and  his magpie genre pushing  His Tabla playing is as fast as any machine drum machine and infinite in pitch .It was strange watching the crowd .Indians never really let go ,but it was too packed to dance really .The Santoor player who I guess must have been Apaj came back for a couple of numbers and then it finished .I was watching the Indians with  camera phones taking selfies and filming and constant pictures .They just love it .

I stayed on a bit longer to see what the house  DJ was going to play after, hoping it was going to be more Indio Asian drum and bass or even dance jazz ,or something experimental ,but it wasnt he was playing just flat commercial m o r  dance music for a  flat MOR crowd  that had changed  to 20 something gentrification predominantly English  kids on a one in one out  .I tried to get into the music but it was leaving me cold and I was feeling old in there and decided to drive back home ,still glowing with what I had just watched . The music was still playing in my head when I got home .

Campfire x


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