January 11, 2014
Based in Washington, DC, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) is a national service and advocacy organization dedicated to developing and supporting a robust performing arts presenting field and the performers working within it. Generally, speaking they have developed a strong focus towards internationally-based artists and arts groups across a variety of disciplines that perform across the country. In this particular case, the Austin, TX-based “world music” sextet of ATASH performed several sets in different showcases in town as part of APAP’s annual conference every January. Sadly, I think that because of the conference’s timing (right after the New Year, no less), the overall glut of conferences and showcases across the country, and it’s internationally-based focus that it gets forgotten by many of my fellow bloggers – in particular, those who only focus on indie rock or “American” music. Shame on them, as they miss out on the fact that true artists, always want to seek artists regardless of country of origin or language.
But I digress a bit. Based out of Austin, TX, the six members of the band – Mohammad Firoozi (vocals), Dylan Jones (bass), Jason McKenzie (drums)
John Moon (viollin), Roberto Riggio (violin, oud, harmonium) and Indrajit Banerjee (sitar) are all extremely accomplished musicians in their own right as members of the band have played alongside the likes of Francois Rabbath, Youssou N’Dour, the Austin Symphony, the Austin Lyric Opera, Billy Joe Shaver, the Gipsy Kings and others. And in some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that their sound manages to deftly mesh Indian, Persian and Arabic, American folk and country/bluegrass and others in a way that possesses a delicate beauty unfolding before you but with an underlying hypnotic, trance-inducing feel. In some way, I was reminded of the sounds of Little India, of Richmond Hill and of Jackson Heights.
Each of the songs of their set managed to be of epic length, stretching past 6 minutes with dramatic changes of tempo and tone, and felt at times improvised and free-flowing, as though if given a chance the band could have gotten into a groove and kept on going all night, thanks to the fact that the songs felt roomy enough for each individual to show off their chops. Naturally, most of the musicians have had jazz training, but I couldn’t help but immediately think of the tendencies of prog rock – of songs that seem to be playfully heady.
I was most impressed by their sitar player, Indrajit Banerjee who seemed to have the most dexterous fingers i’ve ever seen on a musician – from my vantage point, it seemed as though he had 8 or 9 fingers on each hand. But all of the musicians are simply incredible and make what they do seem incredibly easy (when it isn’t). It was simply the most impressive thing I’ve recently seen and heard.
For a few more photos, check out the Flickr set here: