Jugalbandi for a New Time: Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar

Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar

Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar

Here’s a different sort of jugalbandi. London’s Talvin Singh tabla adventure seeker and Kolkata’s firebrand sitar/zitarist, Niladri Kumar, come together to create a chemical reaction that stimulates and soothes at the same time.

Kumar’s unorthodox approach to the sitar is evident from the opening bars of the opening track when he announces his arrival with a riff worthy of any number of rock anthems but which for some reason brought Layla to mind. Niladri Kumar is of the restless seeking generation of today, in no way inclined to settle down in one groove or gharana or genre. Rock, film scores, fusion jazz as well as proper classical ragas are his calling cards, and to help him in his cause he has transformed the 20 string sitar into a 5 string zitar. Throughout this album you’ll have yourself wondering ‘how did he do that?’ I picked up acoustic guitar and banjo as well as the aforementioned rock swirl.

Talvin Singh needs no introduction at this mature stage of his career. His tabla work defined the Asian Underground sound and his collaborations with everyone from Bjork to Souixie and the Banshees attest to his artistic leanings. He is one of my favorite percussionists. He has not just ‘mastered’ his instrument. Rather his instrument and he are one; indivisibly they explore the lesser known regions of Beauty.

Together is the title of the album and this leads back to the idea of jugalbandi. This is a conversation between intimates. Sometimes in the bright early part of the day and others in the depths of night. Kumar’s sitar/zitar sometimes asks the question and at others Singh’s tabla is poised, ready to filibuster, it seems, until the sun crawls above the horizon.

I apologize for the track ‘Ananta’ which is corrupted and which I noticed too late. But all others on this fine record will give you pause, joy and peace.


Track Listing:

01 River

02 Pink

03 Mirror

04 Ananta

05 Together

06 Jogi

07 Play

08 The Bliss

09 Threads

10 Joy


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