Nasha :: Eastern Drum and Breaks Vol 3
What do Hollywood and dubstep have in common? In 2008, both were witness to a couple of English blokes making the biggest splashes of the year by way of the unlikeliest of places - India and specifically, Bollywood. "Slumdog Millionaire" was Danny Boyle's ode to the teeming spirit of urban Mumbai, an ode that eventually divided much of its audience due to its portrayal of life in conditions that most of us were seeing for the first time, that too in surround sound and technicolor. Thematically, it borrowed liberally from its Eastern cousin with heavy doses of masala (boy meets girl, boy loses girl due to the machinations of villain, boy and girl reunite at the end and break into song and dance) and A.R. Rahman. Eight Academy Awards later, the movie has made it cool again to be Desi. Dubstep, an offspring of the British grime and two-step scene, had a similar success story. Chase & Status, a pair of British drum n' bass producers got hold of a six-year old Bollywood sample (from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas) to create "Eastern Jam", a dance anthem that was a master class in Indian sampling and urban electronic music production. Suddenly, every dubstep DJ from Skream to Rusko was dropping it in their sets and singing along to Shreya Ghoshal. Arguably dubstep's biggest hit, "Eastern Jam" was as big a moment in South Asian culture as the "Slumdog Millionaire" sweep at Hollywood's largest award show.
To give Chase & Status all the credit for making us sit up and take notice of South Asian-influenced dubstep would be unfair. Horsepower Productions ("Sholay"), Random Trio's Cyrus ("Indian Stomp"),Pinch ("Qawwali"), Dusk + Blackdown ("Lata") and Sub Swara ("Koli Stance") were all doing their bit for the sub-genre. So was a teenager from East London going by the name of Sukh Knight. His tracks "The Jinglist" and "Cop Killer" were gaining quite an online following among dubstep aficionados on MySpace and Dubstepforum.com - he is considered the most exciting producer in dubstep, Asian or otherwise, today. With an uncanny flair for laying the most obscure yet recognizable sample over the most wobbly of bass-laden grooves, Nasha Records and founder Ges-e, have scored the ultimate coup by getting Sukh into their camp. "Cop Killer" makes an appearance in all its Lata Mangeshkar/R.D. Burman sampling splendor on Nasha V3. The track - a nod to the 1982 movie, Shakti, that the sample "Hum Ne Sanam Ko Khat Likha" was lifted from - is quintessential Sukh Knight. For those of us who've been following Sukh's still-in-its-infancy career, since his days with MDK Cartel, will recognize "Knightlife" - more bassline-heavy, grimey, Bolly-dubstep. Opening track "Vengeance" sees Sukh teaming up with Asian breaks veteran, Ges-e, and the outcome is tremendous - a blistering march of a tune that throws in a sample laden with Asian-tinged strings - truly the next big dance anthem. Look no further to see that the Nasha sound has evolved immensely since Volume 2 was released four years ago.
Last year, we here at ET made a bold statement - a statement that undoubtedly would have put unnecessary pressure on any youngster starting out early in his/her career. That statement went something like this: "Sukh Knight and Nuphlo are the future of Asian electronica". We first gained word, sight and sound of Nuphlo at London's Indian Electronica Festival in 2006 where he dropped a truly remarkable set that was as much a perspective on the history of drum n' bass as it was a look at its promising future. But to box him inside the drum n' bass tag would be doing this young man a great disservice. He is at ease with building complex dubstep rhythms ("Treasure Beyond Measure") as he is with full-on breaks and dn'b ("Disciple"). We stand by our statement and surely, the best is yet to come from either of these two producers.
The Nasha crew has always been a loosely knit collective ever since Volume 1 back in 2003. Everyone from Visionary Underground and Bandish Projekt to Equal-I and ex-ADF vocalist, Aktarv8r have made appearances on the Eastern Drum and Breaks collections. But the core has always remained the same - Ges-e and Osmani Soundz - producing separately and together as the Nasha Experience. Their sound remains both devoted to tradition (since they started out as far back as 1990) and groundbreaking in terms of the evolution of Asian breakbeat and electronica. Of all the producers and DJs who were around in the mid-90s when the Blue Note was the sanctum sanctorum for Asian electronica, Ges-e and Osmani are arguably the only ones who have championed the sound (in its pure form) and its possibilities till today. Their tracks are consistently held as the benchmark for the genre and V3 inclusions "Dayam", "The Calling", "100 Colours" and "Dil Se" are no exception. The Nasha Experience sound is now darker and bolder, reflecting the popularity and dominance of dubstep in British urban music. At its core, it still remains elite 21st century fusion of East and West.
A third newcomer to the Nasha camp, Shandy - obviously someone who has been flying well below our own radar - shows great promise as a solo artist yet holds his own in the company of the more experienced Ges-e and Osmani Soundz. "Experience East", a tabla-fuelled electro-dn'b romp is perhaps the most straightforward dance tune on the compilation. Elsewhere, he gets behind the mixing boards with his label mates on the dark dn'b rumblings of "Devastate" and "Distant Dreams" - two of the best tracks on V3. If this is some of Shandy's first recordings, Nasha Volumes 4 and 5 and any future releases should be equally enlightening.
If you are like us, on an almost daily basis, trying to deconstruct the argument that Asian electronica's finest days are behind it, your salvation, like ours, might be here. Nasha V3, a 16-track peek into British Asian forays in the worlds of drum n' bass, breaks and dubstep, we are convinced, is all we need to disprove that argument. If Ges-e is our Prez, then V3 is our State of the Union.