Karsh Kale Remixed

Karsh Kale is one of the brighter names in the desi electronica scene today. If State of Bengal, Badmash and Shri, Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney, Niraj Chag, M.I.A and so on comprise the British invasion (they are all UK based - it's not for nothing that it started off being called the UK-Asian Underground!), Karsh represents one of the very few prominent US faces of the Asian Massive. His latest album, Broken English, is a dizzying melange of the music of New York City, reflecting the bhangra of Jackson Heights, hip hop of the projects, alt rock of Greenwich Village and myriad other influences, all underpinned by his Indian classical training. The opening track, Manifest, is a statement of intent, effortlessly packing rap, Hindusthani vocals, synth atmospherics and bhangra into a propulsive dancefloor stomper. It's easily one of the best tracks on the album.

So, when Manifest was selected as the target of a remix contest at Acid Planet, it didn't come as much of a surprise. The idea is simple: Acid Planet provides the basic elements of the song i.e. a number of audio loops. Budding producers and DJs then utilize the samples to come up with their own mix which they then upload back to the site. The entries can then be rated and commented upon. The results vary wildly, both in style and quality. Half the fun is scrolling through the contest entries to hear how the same set of sounds inspired such a different array of results. The contest and the site is also very web 2.0 - mashups, user powered content, user ratings, online social communities and such.

Just pause for a minute to consider the implications of all this. In effect, we are taking a track that blends various influences from all over the world, deconstructing it down to its various components, and, by making it globally available in lego form, scattering the strands to all corners of the world. The seeds germinate and sprout, using whatever new cultural fertilizer is available, into new songs which echo the root track yet reflect the new milieu that nourished it into existence. The prodigal sons then return to their parents. This process of deconstruction and reconstitution could continue indefinitely - my head hurts just thinking about it. Yet, it is also a metaphor for the themes of globalization, migration, and travel in the original album. Of course, everyone has their own reasons for submitting. For example, Kaushik M writes:

I like doing remixes. I especially like remix contests, although I have no interest in entering them to win a t-shirt or free software. Instead, remix contests are a great way to get raw working material to inspire me. Using just the vocal track, I like to recreate the entire song into something new. The act of reinventing and reimagining someone else's creation is interesting. It gives me a chance to experiment with different styles, and to get to know my production tools better. It also keeps my musical skills sharp, especially after long quiet periods when I don't have much time to work on music.

All of this theorizing is useless if the new mixes are crap or if no one contributes. Fortunately, this particular contest inspired nearly 200 entries from all over the world! I went through and picked some that I thought to be particularly interesting. Once again, they are presented below, in the embedded Flash mp3 player. The original is streamed here, BTW. The styles range from dark electro (Sharaab) to minimalist groove (Kaushik M of Oishani Music) to deep house. Enjoy!

PS - Hat tip to Tablatronic for pointing out the contest. I'm still looking for the samplepack myself - if some kind soul could e-mail it to me, I'd be grateful.

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- September 1, 2006 10:28 PM // Music