During my short time freelancing as a music journalist, I’ve come across an extensive repertoire of music from the independent scene of the country, that houses a dynamic palette of genres and styles; even a few that have transcended the peripheries of genres altogether. Needless to say, my ears have accustomed themselves to a kaleidoscopic range of sounds, which honestly proves to be quite a tragedy at times really, as it is seldom that I find a truly bona fide creation – something worth the hype and recognition.
But recently, it may have been that my unspoken desire for the same manifested itself, as I came across Assamese pianist and jazz musician Ron Cha’s debut EP Maati – a sublime mélange of sounds that dismantles the barriers between the oriental and the western, to create something genuinely iconic, for the lack of a better word. Although only 5-tracks long (and you wish it went on longer), Maati has surpassed any expectations that you could have of a modern jazz number with its virtuosic musicality and fine craftsmanship. The EP is a collaboration between Ron Cha and other prominent musicians from the country and beyond (Kalpana Patowary, Mohini Dey, Biren Deuri, Lionel Loueke, Ferenc Nemeth, and others), who have come together to contribute their expertise, resulting in the birth of a piece of music that you have to experience yourself to even get any modicum of its splendor. The entire EP is an effort to bring together music from Assam’s soils and contemporary jazz that work in perfect synchronization to craft an effervescent soundscape throughout its course. And this shows from the first track itself – “Awakening” signifying the commencement of the record. Soulful Assamese folk music complemented by layered vocal harmonies and euphonious piano lines – such is the essence of the pilot track. This paves the way for “Doi Roi Bidi” which opens with a rich vocal solo from Biren Deuri efflorescing into a snazzy Rhodes section and climaxing again with Deuri’s vocals.
“Lost” Is sentimental, attempting to experiment with moodier sonic colours and harmonies, that make you vicariously experience the emptiness that is present in its core. This is only accentuated by the Nadhaswaram phrases played by Mylai Karthikeyan. “O Mur Apunar Desh” is a warm and wholesome duet of smooth saxophone and piano crooning about a sense of homeliness without even uttering any real words. “Bihu Blues” is panache in its soundscape, personifying the zest and vigour associated with the festival and the deep cultural significance embedded in it.
Ron Cha’s collaborative debut EP is a celebration of his roots and every bit of knowledge that he has absorbed in his journey as a musician. He goes all out and yet remains humble in his musicianship as he carves his way through a medley of sonic embellishments only to design a record worth remembering and upholding.