New York: You don’t hear any road-weariness in well-travelled American singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer’s voice when she talks about touring. That’s because she loves “the personality of places.” She first toured India in 2009 and was drawn to India’s outsized personality. She came back home to Indiana with a notebook filled with India’s sights and sounds.
Newcomer now has a new album out, Everything is Everywhere, a collaboration with three of the best sarod players in the world, Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan and Ayaan. While being an artist-in-residence at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, Newcomer casually shared music and ideas at the Khan home one afternoon. Then one thing just led to another.
“At that first meeting it became apparent that even though Indian classical and western singer-songwriter forms are very different, there was a shared spirit in our works. When Amjad Ali Khan sang a traditional Indian melody that first afternoon in the Khan family studio I found myself weeping. I didn’t understand the words, but I was powerfully moved by the depth and soul of the music,” Newcomer told Firstpost.
“That same afternoon I sang one of my songs called “The Gathering of Spirits.” When I finished the song I saw that Ayaan’s lovely wife Neema had tears in her eyes. Music is a language deeper than words. It was a beautiful experience working with Amjad, Amaan and Ayaan,” added Newcomer.
Not since George Harrison played the song, “Norwegian wood” on the Sitar in 1965 has there been so much serious interest in an Indian/Western contemporary fusion album. The range of Newcomer’s voice is very low. For years reviewers have compared her voice to “dark chocolate.” There is something about the sound of a woman’s voice singing in those deep lower ranges and the beautiful resonate low tones of the sarod that are surprisingly complimentary.
When I mentioned to Newcomer that one of the younger Khans had observed that the way she plays slide guitar is very similar to the way that they play the sarod, she was amused but very pleased.
“I have always tuned my guitar in alternative tunings that incorporated drone strings and have played with a rhythmic style that feels similar to sarod stylings. It was a wonderful discovery. The first time I toured in India it felt like I’d been writing my whole life for the Indian listeners,” said Newcomer.
“When writing for this album, two of the songs were composed on a traditional American folk instrument call the mountain dulcimer which has several droning strings and can have a slide feel to it as well.”
All nine songs on “Everything is Everywhere” were written for this specific collaboration. “The idea was to create songs that were based in western song form, but would integrate and preserve the power, depth and energy of Indian music. I did not want to create western songs, add a tabla and call it fusion,” said Newcomer. “The idea was to truly expand all our musical edges and create something totally new and unique. I believe we accomplished that.”
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