Masters of India groove, Israeli duo Kartick & Gotam (also known as K&G), are sure to take the electronic world music scene by storm in the coming months. These extremely talented and tenured musicians (Kartick a music producer and Gotam an audio engineer) create an electronic foundation upon which they build a textured and varied collection, mixing live instrumentation and vocals over their digital soundboard. Their loungy, down-tempo sound has a middle-eastern flavor with a funky edge. They integrate traditional Indian Carnatic singing, sitar, santoor-xylophone, violin and horns—just to name a few. They have taken the traditional sounds of India and presented them in a fresh electronic soundscape, with catchy bass lines and ambient drumming backbeats.
The two met in a recording studio 15 years ago in Tel Aviv, and their music together had always been more of a side project until the pair was traveling to Indonesia and their overbooked flight earned them a business class upgrade. While en route, they were held up at the Singapore airport for required paperwork, which was supposed to only take three hours. Instead, it took three days. The two were stranded in the Singapore airport, without passports or identity—business class refugees. This insurmountable dilemma and excess of time left only one thing to do: make music. Thus, the concept of K&G’s debut album, Business Class Refugees, was born. It is set for release in the U.S. in May.
Business Class Refugees intrigues your ear from start to finish, with the perfect mix of vocals and a melodic melding of styles and languages. “We try to deliver an experience to the listener more than a message,” says Gotam, “as we believe that music can be exciting to anyone in any genre or language.” Exciting it is indeed, these gentlemen have definitely succeeded in delivering an experience. Having enlisted a host of local Indian musicians for collaboration, the album features Naveen Lyer on flute, Mishko M’ba on bass, KV Balakrishnan on tabla, Yoav Bunzel on drums and Mahesh Vinayakram on vocals, among others. Each track is unique in its own right, yet fluid in its place in the album as a whole.
The live performance of Business Class Refugees takes the collection to a whole new level. I couldn’t complete this review without making mention of it. Kartick and Gotam anchor the live show as DJs and bring with them live musicians, an Indian classical dancer and intoxicating visuals projected on a gigantic screen, creating an electro-live production beyond compare. This is the way electronic music should be experienced! K&G are playing SXSW on March, 18. If you are one of the lucky 170,000 people attending this year, go see K&G!
Randomville (RV): Who creates the visuals for the live performances?
Kartick & Gotam (K&G): The visuals were created by our in-house visual team – Arturo Calvete, Pery Castiel, Ramkrishna D, Callum Linton, and Surendar Kshatriya.
RV: What parallels can the audience draw from the images being projected and the music you create?
K&G: The images are part of our travel and journey, we see the performance as a journey and would like to draw the viewer into that.
RV: How would you say the listening experience of the recorded album differs from the live performance? (Do you seek to reach the listener in a different way on the recording vs. live?)
K&G: The live performance is a different experience due to the additional elements (dance, video, guest musicians) as well as a different treatment for the songs. Producing an album is different as you want to create an experience that can be played over and over, while producing a live show you want to leave a onetime taste signature with a longing for more…
RV: How did your work with the London Symphony Orchestra influence your musical approach with Kartick and Gotam?
K&G: We were always attracted to classical western music and its power. Working with LSO was inspirational, and taught us a lot.
RV: Your music seems to push the boundaries of electronic music by incorporating live instrumentation with the digital backbone. Do you think that electronic music allows artistic expression in the same way instrumental music does?
K&G: Absolutely, sometimes even more as today’s technology gives a huge support for creativity.
RV: How has technology and the digital age shaped the music you compose and produce?
K&G: I think the major change is being able to achieve results quicker and more cost effectively, however the biggest challenge is to stay true to the music and not fall into the gimmick part that technology offers.
RV: What element(s) or characteristic(s) of electronic music intrigues/inspires you the most?
K&G: Sampling an acoustic sound and being able to manipulate it while it still sounds like it is being played live 😉