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U. Shrinivas: Samjanitha

Jazz and classical Indian music have never been mutually exclusive ideas, given the past experiments of guitarist John McLaughlin and Shakti, Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction and such. But from the Indian side of the equation, it’s the likes of sitarist Niladri Kumar’s Zitar and mandolinist U. Shrinivas who’ve made the greatest strides toward integration in the last decade. Progressive musicians both, the two are at the forefront of Indian fusion jazz, with Kumar going the furthest in his use of ambient electronic sound and programming and Shrinivas doing his best to maintain tradition on all levels.

Niladri, the son of Pandit Kumar-an Indian master sitarist who worked and studied under Ravi Shankar-has crafted his own five-string electric sitar whose effects are nothing if not stunning. Think Robert Fripp’s Frippertronic loops and you have an idea of the soaring roar and undulating pulse of “Zilebration” and the spacey elevation of “Liplocked.” There is the pixilating thump of Indian instrumentation (tabla, sarangi) that marks much of what Niladri’s achieved here-the ticklish sound of “Yearning” is one example. But it’s how that traditionalism is teased with elegant orchestral sounds (“Priority”), his slew of Western instruments, and Aggi Fernandes’ synths and programming that really makes Niladri’s sitar spin.

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