Producer/guitarist Kartik Shah and vocalist/songwriter Nirali Kartik form the much-acclaimed fusion duo Maati Baani. In a scene where there’s no dearth of such neo-fusion artists (often blending Indian folk and classical with Western pop/electronic subgenres), it can be risky to maintain consistency. While the duo has proven its mettle before, their latest EP Nomad Songs continues its streak of successful projects.
As has been with their previous discography, Nomad Songs too features a highly diverse and talented ensemble of artists from all over the world. Maati Baani’s music aside, Shah and Kartik have also played a significant role in discovering local musicians or giving them much-needed popular attention. Nomad Songs is no exception with its wide array of instrumentalists from India to Poland to Iran, and so on.
And such conventional and unconventional instruments of all categories are present in some way or the other all through the four tracks. Is it a bit too much? Well, that clearly varies on one’s perspective. For listeners who have easily driven away with world music albums, Nomad Songs might not be their pick but it’s definitely worth checking out. Because if there’s one thing that’s clear is that Maati Baani’s compositions are often very soothing.
The EP’s tracks Boondan Boondan and Albela Sajan bear testimony to this, in particular.
The former that also serves as the EP’s opening track sets a very theatrical and atmospheric mood and then builds up with Nirali Kartik’s effortless crooning reaches satisfying notes with some violins, and flutes perfectly complementing her singing. The song does run for 7-minutes but such long durations for each of the tracks is required considering the level of experimentations the record’s crew aims to achieve.
For instance, in Boondan Boondan, a bagpipe section suddenly builds up the pace and intensity. That particular portion picks up on the preceding vocals very easily and at the same time stands on its own.
Similarly, each of these so-called ‘Nomad Songs’ seem to include two to three songs in the guise of one. But at the same time, the transitions are effortless and hardly chaotic. The closing track, Dhoom, on the other hand, offers a slightly nostalgic feeling of 2000s rock, especially in its guitaring and percussion segments. The violins again are manically pleasant-sounding, making it arguably the most energetic track of an already-energetic tracklist. A few added folk vocals add a more raw flavour to the track.
While the EP is a stunning effort as mentioned before, the duration can again be slightly tumultuous for some listeners. On average, each song easily spans for more than five minutes. At the same time, if one needs some rousing ‘instrumental jugalbandhis‘ to get going, the EP can make for an addictive binge. In the end, to put it simply, Nomad Songs might impress niche audiences but it’s a major win for fusion musicians in the independent scene, delving into how Indian music and vocals can blend well with their foreign counterparts if done right.
Verdict: A monumental duo leading a monumental ensemble for some monumental fusion.