Ethnomusicology has been presented in a fine and flamboyant style in this second album created by Kulkarni, as he accepts the challenge of blending east with west, ancient with modern to create what can be considered as world-fusion, but the term ethnic soul resonates with panache and is perhaps the more descriptive of the two.
The term ethnic soul was coined by Kulkarni in respect of the piece When I Go which features the mbira thumb piano and harmonica, creating the ambience of slightly melancholic soul, with an upbeat harmony improvised by the clever use of the harmonica. Speak to me features the tabla drum, Oud, and a plucked stringed Lute from the Middle East which introduces a completely different feel.
Surrounded by music all of this life, Kulkarni began playing the Indian tabla drum with his parents, taking formal lessons at the age of 10 years, a time when he also began to learn the clarinet. He eventually became the Drum Major of his in senior high school, leading as many as 300 musicians onto the football field at halftime.
His music style comes from the many influences in his life, but was always intrigued by melodies, rhythms and production, as well as the richly majestic nature of film scores, particularly Bollywood scores, as well as a verity of other styles such as world music, pop, ethnic chill and New Age.
On this album he blends with immense skill the tones, style and emotion of so many of these various influences, ranging from Indian to Middle Eastern, Australian Digeridoo to Theorbo, two ancient instruments, djembe and Irish Bagpipes. From China he has taken the Erhu and from Japan the Japanese Flute building them into interesting and enjoyable pieces, with an exotic touch of the orient overlaying the central theme.
A point to note is there are four short improvisational pieces included to allow the listener to become familiar with several of the more unusual instruments used. They are Listen: Mbira, Listen: Oud, Listen : Erhu and Listen Theorbo which creates a lovely change, as these instruments often catch the ear, but remain unheralded, which is a real shame, as they are individually beautiful to hear played.
The album is definitely different, but different with a catchy beat, a delightful change of resonance and a skilful blending of sounds and rhythms.
Listen is one album that should be played on a dull day to lighten the load and brighten the soul. Uplifting and totally enjoyable it will be interesting to see what Kulkarni creates with his next album. As his first two albums are of an extremely high standard of world music, he has set the bar high for future works.