In a country with over a billion people, countless languages and multitude of musical influences, it takes special talent to stand out from the crowd as an entertainer. Luckily talent is what Kailash Kher has sacks full of.
One of the most popular singer/songwriters in India right now, Kher came to attention in 2002 with his breakout hit, Allah Ke Bande. Since then he has become a household name having performed on over 150 Hindi film soundtracks, recorded more than 400 radio and television jingles and presented Indian Idol and other TV shows.
Alongside this, Kher has somehow found time to team up with musician brothers Naresh and Paresh Kamath to form the band Kailasa, which has become one of the most popular groups on the sub-continent.
So it comes as little surprise (particularly after Slumdog Millionaire’s global success) that the trio would attempt to breakthrough with their first international release, Yatra (Nomadic Souls). A collection of brand new songs alongside studio and unplugged recordings of some of their most admired hits, Yatra is a superb introduction to contemporary Indian music and Kher’s exceptional vocal ability.
Featuring elements of spiritual Sufi chants, Rajasthani Gypsy rhythms, Punjabi dance and other regional styles, fused with electric guitar, modern beats and an array of traditional instruments, Yatra rises above the generic ‘world music’ tag it could so easily be given.
Kher’s raw, earthy tones have often seen him compared to the late qawwali maestro Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and rightly so. His vocal dexterity and lyrics evoking Sufi mysticism result in mesmerising songs like Dilruba, Kaise Main Kahoon and Jhoomo Re.
Other standout tracks include the Arabic-influenced Taubah Taubah and a stunning unplugged version of Teri Deewani, an ode to the delirium of love sung from the female perspective, and arguably one of the most soulful Hindi songs of the past decade.
Equally praiseworthy is the Kamath siblings’ use of modern rock and electronic influences which steer the album clear of the conventional Indi-pop sounds that often result when Asian artists adapt their music for a Western audience. Instead, their superior musical arrangements enhance Kher’s folk sensibilities and meaningfully penned lyrics to make Yatra a hypnotic exploration of the human condition and complexities of love.
A superb introduction to contemporary Indian music and Kher’s exceptional vocals. Jaspreet Pandohar