‘In Time’ Is a Richly Textured Debut by NYC’S Akshara Music Ensemble
Last October, New York City’s Akshara Music Ensemble released their debut album, In Time. Formed in 2008 by Carnatic musician Bala Skandan, the group combines Indian classical with jazz and world music to create beautifully layered, mostly instrumental compositions.
The buoyant first track, “Mind the Gap,” is a showcase for Skandan’s playful, dexterous percussion on the mridangam, also serving as a solid introduction to the band’s penchant for dynamic timing shifts. Next up, the Independent Music Award-winning “Mohana Blues” features a warm, wistful cello and might be the album’s most soulful piece. When Skandan’s vocal percussion first drops in, it’s somewhat unexpected, but the ear quickly grows accustomed to its hypnotic appeal.
“Shadjam” features more intricate changes in time signature, ending on a rather elegant note with Jay Gandhi’s delicate yet spirited flute. Max ZT opens up the final track, “Urban Kriti,” with an evocative, almost mysterious hammered dulcimer; when the rest of the band kicks in, the song turns into a bustling, anxious number that closes the album with some edge.
In Time had been in the works for five years before dropping late last year, so it’s no wonder the album sounds so effortless in its execution. There’s such clarity to the album’s production that you can focus your ear on any particular instrument to appreciate these tracks’ interweaving rhythmic patterns and melodies, but every disparate sound works toward a common purpose. From Amali Premawardhana’s lush cello to Nitin Mitta’s brisk, nimble tabla, everything blends together to form a complex, full-bodied whole.
Bala Skandan has assembled an impressive musical collective, and it might be worth your time to check out each band member’s bio on Akshara’s site to fully understand the level of renown we’re dealing with here; these are seriously talented musicians, and I hope to hear another collaboration between them all sometime soon.
If you want to learn more about the band, check out their official website and social media pages:
To listen to the their music, visit:
Bala Skandan – Mridangam, Konnakkol
Nitin Mitta – Tabla
Arun Ramamurthy – Violin
Trina Basu – Violin
Amali Premawardhana – Cello
Jay Gandhi – Flute
Max ZT – Hammered Dulcimer
Dave Eggar – Cello