Karsh Kale

Karsh Kale’s unique brand of electronica—infused with Indian classical, rock, and hip-hop influences—has helped propel a South Asian youth music movement. He has inspired countless professional and bedroom producers to action, and the scene has never been more vibrant. Heavyweights such as Sting, Herbie Hancock, father-and-daughter sitar legends Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, and bassist Bill Laswell have also taken notice, and called upon Kale to collaborate. While such career momentum might motivate some artists to stay on a tried-and-true path, Kale chose to veer off into a guitar-centric writing approach for his new CD, Broken English [Six Degrees].

“When I first started thinking about this album, I was in the process of moving from New York City to Los Angeles,” explains Kale. “It took a while for my keyboard and computer gear to arrive, and I was itching to write music. So I went down to a pawnshop, found a cheap, no-name Mexican steel-string, and started to write songs on it.”

The result was Kale’s first song-driven album after a series of discs that focused more on eclectic instrumentals and four-to-the-floor dance grooves.

“The truth is, I started feeling that a lot of the electronic music I was making was somewhat disposable,” says Kale. “Today, it’s so easy to use Pro Tools or Logic to come up with something that sounds kind of cool within an hour. I also got sick of sitting in front of a computer screen trying to write music. Writing on acoustic guitar is a more organic experience. The guitar challenges me, and it forces me to think about the essential elements of a song before moving forward with any additional sonics. I believe if you can break down a composition into simple parts, and it still sounds beautiful, then it can stand the test of time.”

Broken English also finds Kale stretching out by performing synth parts on a Fender Stratocaster equipped with a MIDI pickup.

In addition, the disc features significant contributions from electric guitarist J.P. Doherty, whose lead and rhythm work colors the majority of the album’s tracks.

“Guitarists play many different roles in my music,” says Kale. “Their chord progressions and lead lines are critical, but their attitude is even more important. In Indian music, ensuring a purity of emotion about what you’re trying to communicate is essential. However, the attitudes I’m trying to represent sometimes require raw frequencies that don’t exist within Indian instruments. Guitarists such as J.P. are excellent foils to help portray the feelings behind the songs. They’re able to do things on guitar better than I can, and take the vibe I’m looking for and magnify it tenfold.”