A tabla ace in his own right, Ishaan Ghosh founded Araj in 2018 with sitarist Mehtab Ali Niazi, flautist S. Akash, sarangi artist Vanraj Shastri and vocalist Pratik Singh. Ghosh had worked with each artist in their individual capacity and put together the band. He says, “I always wanted to get the best of our generation together and that’s why we met and spent the first 10 days together just making music. It was so much fun!”
That level of fun also translated onto their new album Chakra, which released in July. Recorded live starting in 2021, there are four tracks spanning just over 37 minutes born out of practice sessions between the members. “Music is not about ticking boxes but breaking them,” Ghosh says about the approach they took on Chakra.
Ghosh describes the album listening journey that “takes you through the highs and lows, the thrills and tranquility – only to prove that Indian music covers a range of emotions that is second to none.” The album’s opus, in a sense, is the 16-minute-track “Summing Up.” The main focus of the composition is a “percussion dialogue” between Ghosh and Shikhar Naad Qureshi on djembe. “I decided not to chop off any of those parts because we played it in a flow, and it builds up into a crazy climax. So basically, for you guys, the listeners, you can hear the music in its entirety almost as if you were right there with us,” Ghosh adds.
Just as a djembe might show up among Hindustani classical artists, the influences on Chakra are more than just the usual. Ghosh says the more significant influences on the album include Carnatic music and jazz alike, plus “a little bit of Middle Eastern melodic phrases and a super quick glimpse of Latin rhythm” at different points across four tracks.
With Chakra out now, Araj are already building upon the Indian and international reach they have to set up more gigs at home and abroad. Ghosh adds, “We might also start working on a few new tracks, but you guys will have to wait for some time to hear them.”
Listen to ‘Chakra’ below.
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