Sun Raga

The Hookah Cafe

July 08, 2004

Tabla player Andrew Maclean wanted New Orleans musicians to play classical Indian music. He wanted to create a band whose members would respect while learning the form. He wanted the players to infuse their influences into the ancient genre in an improvisational atmosphere. Enter Sun Raga. Sarangi player Kash Killion, vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, and five-string bassist Roland Guerin rounded out the quartet Thursday night at The Hookah Café.

Sun Raga played dreamy, ambient music that was chill, thematic and funky. The laissez-faire music floated lazily through the room like the Hookah smoke that filled it. The music went well with the dim lighting and relaxed atmosphere of the café. For one song, the bright tone of the vibraphones gave the music a game-show feel. Indian music is surprisingly funky, but slap-happy Guerin and company gave it a constant groove sensibility. Whether the group was on a disjunctive bent or exploring a funky path, their base was solid.

The music was very enjoyable because the band worked off one another well. Marsalis continued his emergence as a great vibe player, and Killion awed me because I’ve never seen someone play a sarangi(Indian fiddle) before. High-pitched tones were often sustained, emphasizing the free spirit of the music. Damn fine.

Maclean stood out from the bunch. He derived so many different sounds from the melodic, percussive instrument. It was a delight to see his dexterity draw out a wide array of noises.

The music was a journey, and it was a joy to watch the musicians search and test the boundaries of Indian music. It’s evolution, baby!

Note to all heterosexual males: the beautiful women have landed at The Hookah Cafe.

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