Anoushka Shankar / Karsh Kale: Breathing Under Water (2007)
The Shankar family has always been credited for bringing Indian music to the forefront of Western audiences. Although it was Pt. Ravi Shankar who brought sitar to the limelight of western avant-garde instrumentalists, the most experimental fusion work remains of that of the lesser known Ananda Shankar. Following along the same lines, and after two years of delivering Rise (Angel Records, 2005), Anoushka Shankar has collaborated with Karsh Kale for this masterful album, elegantly fusing Indian classical sitars with electronic music. Rise was Anoushka Shankar's first good attempt at fusing her sitar works to more widely accepted experimental electronics, giving an insight into the musical direction to which Shankar aspires. Breathing Under Water blows the lid off all speculations.
Breathing Under Water is a well-conceived collection of thirteen tracks, utilizing heavyweights including Grammy winners Norah Jones, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Sting and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, as well as contributions from Bollywood biggies Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan and Salim Merchant. This album is not for those searching for instrumental finesse and complex structures, but then again it's not meant to be so, given the past body of work by Karsh Kale, including the ingenious Broken English (Six Degrees, 2006) and Realize (Six Degrees, 2001).
From vibrant melodic tracks like "Slither, "PD7 and "Abyss to carefree effervescent self-searching numbers including "Burn, "Breathing Under Water" and "Easy, this album is a good introduction for those unfamiliar with Indian music, incorporating flavors of Indian mainstream Bollywood music in "Ghost Story, "Little Glass Folk and "A Perfect Rain. The first three quarters of the album is reminiscent of Kale's early works, while the final part is very much in the Indian classical tradition, with Pt. Ravi Shankar guesting on the two-part "Oceanic.
It's a difficult task to pick the best songs from this flawless album. Each song is so different, yet the uniting thread through all of them is an Indian classical aesthetic. Categorizing the album is also difficult, and that may be its only shortcoming.
Track Listing: Burn; Slither; Breathing Under Water; Sea Dreamer; Ghost Story; PD7; Easy; Little Glass Folk; A Perfect Rain; Abyss; Oceanic, Part 1; Oceanic, Part 2; Reprise.
Personnel: Karsh Kale: programming, acoustic guitar; Anousha Shankar: sitar, keyboards; Shankar Mahadevan: vocals (9); Sting: vocals (4); Sunidhi Chauhan: vocals (5); Ullhas Bhapat: santur; Dilshaad Khan: sarangi; Ravi Shankar: sitar (11, 12); Shekhar: cello; Pedro Eustache: flute; Ajay Prassana: bansuri; Norah Jones: vocals, piano (7); Salim Merchant: keyboards; Pirashana Thevarajah: kanjira; Vishwa Mohan Bhatt: Mohan Veena.