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Thursday May 25, 2017
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Sumkali

 

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case, there is much great music that blends traditions in powerful, exhilarating ways, played by people with a deep affection for, and understanding of, the styles they're blending. Apparently, fusion too is in the ear of the beholder.

To my ears, the local group Sumkali plays fusion that works. Their music is a thrilling meld of Indian classical music, American jazz, and more. The musicians (a core of longtime members, both Indians and Westerners, plus others who join them for some recordings and concerts) have either grown up in those traditions or bring years of study to their playing. Sumkali's instrumentation embodies their mingling of traditions, ranging from bass, drums, saxophone, and violin (here played with the musician sitting cross-legged on the floor and the instrument held between foot and shoulder) to the less common sitar and tabla, to the rarely seen kanjira (a small tambourine-like instrument, capable of great complexity and subtlety), bansuri (an Indian bamboo flute), and glissentar (an eleven-string, fretless instrument that sounds like a cross between a guitar, a Middle Eastern oud, and a sitar). On stage members of Sumkali wear traditional Indian clothing--colorful saris for the women, kurtas for the men--with the occasional blue jeans.

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