AkashA
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AkashA

Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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"Masterful World Fusion Music from Malaysia"

AkashA

Karakoram Highway (2011)

Malaysian band AkashA is quickly becoming one of the most interesting bands in the world fusion category. The multiethnic band has matured musically in these last two years and the new pieces are much tighter and engaging.

AkashA’s new album Karakoram Highway incorporates some of the various musical traditions of Malaysia: Malay rhythms and melodies; Indian sitar, tabla and konakol; and Chinese melodies. On top of that, AkashA adds Latin beats, flamenco rumba, Indian blues and jazz elements.

The line-up also reflects Malaysia’s diversity. Band members come from various ethnic groups and also include Australian expatriates. The current band includes Jamie Wilson on guitar; Kumar Karthigesu on sitar; Eric Li on piano and Keyboards; Greg Henderson on bass; Sivabalan S. Shanmuga Sundram on percussion and mridangam; Vick Ramakrishnan on percussion and tabla; and Mohd Shah Nizam Bin Azis on percussion.

Guest musicians on the album include Wang Lee Hom on violin; Mei Han on zheng; and Sonia Croucher on flute.

Karakoram Highway is an extraordinary album by one the rising stars of Southeast Asian world fusion.
- World Music Central, 20 July 2011


"Review: Into AkashA"

Akasha blends Asian and Western music in a new way. Their sound is a highly original mix of traditional Indian classical music with western folk, jazz, and blues. The band is essentially Malaysian, and four of Malaysia's largest cultural groups are represented by it's members - Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Western. Being exclusively acoustic, Akasha also offers a refreshing alternative to the numerous electronic east-west blends that are currently dominating world fusion. Akasha leans away from modern synthetic sounds, and returns us to instruments that are struck, plucked, and beaten.

"Into ... AkashA" presents the listener with a delightfully easy-to-listen-to range of material. The virtuosic skill of the players is evident from the first listen, However, it's also immediately apparent that the music is not purely designed to showcase abilities. Akasha is all about delivering powerful melodies that connect with the listener in memorable ways. Indulgent soloing and technical fireworks are used sparingly. It's really about the music, not the musicians.


Each track on the album evokes a distinctive scene - from raucous merry-making in a rowdy Irish pub, to sailing on dreamy oceanscapes off the Javanese coast. The music also explores familiar international images in original and unusual ways. One minute you're sliding down deep into the Mississippi delta accompanied by sitars and tablas - next thing you know, you're wandering the dusty backstreets of Bombay, catching strains of Cuban jazz piano floating down from an open window. The album's emotional journey takes you from riotous revelry to deep reflection, from joie de vivre to grief.


In short, "Into ... AkashA" is a celebration of the wholeness of life in a colorful world.


Definitely worth checking out - CD Universe


"AkashA wows fans at a memorable concert"

AkashA puts the fun back into fusion with an unforgettable show at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas.

FOR a group that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, AkashA sure has some serious skill when it comes to performing... and that is definitely part of its appeal.

The homegrown band may be all about the banter and carefree musical style, but once those inticate guitar runs, sitar raagas and piano scales start fusing with some serious percussion, you know you’re in the presence of some fine musicians.

And if the world fusion music outfit’s recent one-night-only stint at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) is any indication, AkashA’s fans are definitely onboard for their unique style of music. From the moment the notes of the guitar and sitar began to battle each other in the first number of the night, the new number Karakoram Highway, the full-house crowd was entranced.

Coupled with exuberant percussion sounds, the piece was a journey into the heart of what AkashA’s music is about – and man, is it one fun ride!

World fusion music band AkashA, featuring Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s flautist Sonia Croucher (left), performing at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas.

The second piece was an immediate shift in mood to the sultry Damascus, from their debut album Into... AkashA. Deftly blending smooth Middle Eastern melodies with Latin-sounding guitar, the hypnotic number starts low-key before swelling into a crescendo of percussion and strings... one of their more exotic and slightly darker pieces.

Proving their potential to continuously surprise its audience, Akasha’s next number, Rondo Kirwani, was nothing if not unexpected. While it had a definite East-meets-West quality, that is entirely too trite a description. Fusing the feel of an old-school Malay rock ballad with a salsa sensibility, it needs to be experienced to fully get its yearning, emotional undertones. Definitely one of the night’s highlights.

The rousing Bafana Bafana was next, an ode to both the group’s performances in South Africa as well as the recently-held World Cup. The infectious number incorporated African highlife music with traditional Indian percussion sounds, showing that the mridangam and tabla can be as playful and fun as the djembe!

Watching the group perform live, the chemistry between the seven band members is undeniable; it’s apparent that AkashA’s strength lies not only in each individual musician’s (admittedly superior) skills, but also in the ability to work with each others’ styles.

Ranging in age from 29 to 44, each is an accomplished musician in his own right: Jamie Wilson on the guitar, S. Sivabalan on mridangam, kanjira, and kunnakol, Greg Henderson on bass, Kumar Karthigesu on the sitar, Vick Ramakrishnan on tabla and kunnakol, Mohd Nizam Aziz on percussions, and Eric Li on piano. Coupled with the superb compositions by Wilson that bring together diverse musical styles and influences, it is no surprise that AkashA’s music has gathered such a following in the relatively short two years.

One of the highlights of the night was the appearance of guest artiste Sonia Croucher, a flautist with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Her collaboration with AkashA on one of their popular numbers, Ipoh Hor Fun, added spice to an already fantastic composition that features playful, lilting Chinese sounds.

Croucher’s lovely melodies, while light and melodious, were definitely tricky, and she handled them with finesse. It’s not difficult to understand why this happy piece is such a crowd favourite – you can’t help but smile while listening to it.

It is the mark of a good performance when one and a half hours pass by in a flash, and that was certainly the case with AkashA’s concert. Familiar numbers like Javaraaga, Bombay Bossa Nova and Ants in my Turban were greeted with enthusiasm, while another new one, Bison Blues, whetted the crowd’s appetite for the release of the group’s second album in January.

Before we knew it, the last number, Chasing the Camel, which can be described only as a complete rock out brought the evening to a close.

The night wasn’t over yet, however. In Wilson’s tongue-in-cheek words, the band “spontaneously came back to do an encore they prepared for.” As the group performed two more crowd-pleasing numbers, Irish Joget For Sitar, Ganjeera and Tenor Ukelele, and Bourbon Lassi, it was obvious that its debut performance at the DFP was a tremendous success.

The crowd rose to its feet in a standing ovation even before the last notes faded away, and if their smiles were any indication, each audience member still had their favourite AkashA piece playing in their head as they left the hall.
- ecentral


"Review: Karakoram Highway"

THERE’S little doubt that AkashA is one of the most important bands performing in Malaysia today. A seven-piece fusion outfit that draws its influences from a range of instrumental acts like Shakti and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, AkashA comprises Jamie Wilson (guitar), Kumar Kathigesu (sitar), Eric Li (piano), Greg Henderson (bass), S. Sivabalan (mridangam), Vick Ramakrishnan (tabla) and Nizam p. (ethnic percussion).



AkashA was formed out of the ashes of two earlier projects – Prana and Inner Space. As a follow-up to the excellent debut album Into ... AkashA, this sophomore release is strong and solid, although something a little edgier would have been welcomed.



In terms of a world music blend, Wilson’s compositions tend to draw on Latin influences and Asian schools of music. The opening tune Chasing The Camel is one of the album’s highlights. It comes off as a tight yet free jam session, and even includes a sizzling violin solo from Taiwanese pop icon Wang Lee Hom. Raagatron has one of the afore-mentioned blends, switching back and forth between a Latin lounge and a lively harem dance. Ipoh Hor Fun is a playful Chinese-styled ditty with a guest turn by flautist Sonia Croucher, currently with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Another standout is the joyous title track with some lovely acoustic guitar work from Wilson and a fiery solo from Kumar culminating in a delightful exhange between the two players.



Santubong is perhaps the most emotive piece on the album.



Overall, the new material penned by Wilson reaches the standards of gems (Bourbon Lassi, Bombay Bossanova, Ants In My Turban and Karunaa) from the first album. It’s just that having absorbed that album, and listened to AkashA live, the feeling is that there are a couple of weapons that shine through more live than they have on this record. Namely the angular chromatic attacks of pianist Li and some of the blues rock riffing from Kumar, both of which tend to add extra dimensions to the group’s sound. But then again, that’s just down to personal taste ... come to think of it some might also like to hear Li on organ and Wilson occasionally using the electric guitar ... which would probably end up sounding like John McLaughlin’s Devotion! Maybe next time, eh, fellas?
- Martin Vengadesan


"Review: Karakoram Highway"

Reviewer: MARTIN VENGADESAN











THERE’S little doubt that AkashA is one of the most important bands performing in Malaysia today. A seven-piece fusion outfit that draws its influences from a range of instrumental acts like Shakti and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, AkashA comprises Jamie Wilson (guitar), Kumar Kathigesu (sitar), Eric Li (piano), Greg Henderson (bass), S. Sivabalan (mridangam), Vick Ramakrishnan (tabla) and Nizam p. (ethnic percussion).



AkashA was formed out of the ashes of two earlier projects – Prana and Inner Space. As a follow-up to the excellent debut album Into ... AkashA, this sophomore release is strong and solid, although something a little edgier would have been welcomed.



In terms of a world music blend, Wilson’s compositions tend to draw on Latin influences and Asian schools of music. The opening tune Chasing The Camel is one of the album’s highlights. It comes off as a tight yet free jam session, and even includes a sizzling violin solo from Taiwanese pop icon Wang Lee Hom. Raagatron has one of the afore-mentioned blends, switching back and forth between a Latin lounge and a lively harem dance. Ipoh Hor Fun is a playful Chinese-styled ditty with a guest turn by flautist Sonia Croucher, currently with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Another standout is the joyous title track with some lovely acoustic guitar work from Wilson and a fiery solo from Kumar culminating in a delightful exhange between the two players.



Santubong is perhaps the most emotive piece on the album.



Overall, the new material penned by Wilson reaches the standards of gems (Bourbon Lassi, Bombay Bossanova, Ants In My Turban and Karunaa) from the first album. It’s just that having absorbed that album, and listened to AkashA live, the feeling is that there are a couple of weapons that shine through more live than they have on this record. Namely the angular chromatic attacks of pianist Li and some of the blues rock riffing from Kumar, both of which tend to add extra dimensions to the group’s sound. But then again, that’s just down to personal taste ... come to think of it some might also like to hear Li on organ and Wilson occasionally using the electric guitar ... which would probably end up sounding like John McLaughlin’s Devotion! Maybe next time, eh, fellas?
- Martin Vengadesan


"Party with AkashA"

A bit of masala in the mix makes a world of difference, especially when it comes to fusion music a la mode AkashA, writes SUBHADRA DEVAN
FUSION band AkashaA made the audience sit up, bob heads and even got them on their feet at its one-night-only show at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas two months ago.


Its blend of various music genres, still recognisably of ethnic Malaysian colours, is infectious and memorable.


Says its bass guitarist Greg Henderson: “I think the fact that we’re not dumbing things down by spoon-feeding our audience pop or classics in order to get their attention makes the crowd feel like they’re participating in something progressive, intelligent, and current.” Formed just before the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak in 2008, AkashA Malaysia (full band name) has grown from a let’s-get-together to a we-are-one powerhouse of world music.


This was a growth that could be seen, heard and felt from its January 2009 show for its debut album, Into...AkashA, at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre in Sentul.


The members are Eric Li on piano, Kumar Karthigesu (sitar), Jamie Wilson (guitars, steel and nylon), Greg Henderson (acoustic bass), band manager Sivabalan S. Shanmuga Sundram (mridangam/ganjira/kompang), Vick Ramakrishnan (tabla/kompang) and Nizam P. on varied percussion (udu, djembe, cajon, dharbouka, etc).


Henderson sums it best in an email: “At our best shows, there’s a kind of ‘family vibe’ — a feeling that both ourselves and our audience are just having a good time and sharing in the joy of the music. At those shows, it’s less like a performance and more like a get-together with friends with some cool music flying around.” Since its RWMF 2008 show, AkashA has been invited to perform at world music festivals and represent the country at tourism events worldwide. Festival memory On what is AkashA’s best festival moment, Vick says: “Personally, it’s the Rainforest World Music Festival in Santubong, Sarawak both in 2008 and 2009. On stage, watching thousands cheering, dancing and enjoying our music, (it was) just pure love. Joy and happiness of music expressed in a rainforest setting.” Kumar agrees. “RWMF 2008 was our first show as AkashA. Our music was untested, unproven.


“Yet, from the minute we were announced, we connected with the audience.” We are family On the band’s cohesion after two years, Henderson says the dynamics within the band, musically, have not changed but “we’ve become tighter as we’ve gone along, which is a natural by-product of playing together for a while”.


Album No. 2 AkashA is ready to put forward its sophomore studio album, Karakoram Highway. Wilson composed all 10 songs and melodies, which has new and reworked favourites. The new ones include the title track Chasing The Camel, Raagatron, while the old ones include Ipoh Hor Fun and Zapin Until Mariam. The album also features three guest musicians on various tracks — flautist Sonia Croucher currently with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Mei Han from Red Chamber Of Canada on zheng (Chinese zither), and Taiwan’s superstar Wang Lee Hom on violin. Wilson says Karakoram Highway has a much more varied and colourful feel compared to Into...AkashA. “ Although the album is a studio product, recorded and mixed by Henderson, an award-winning recording engineer, Wilson says the energy and dynamics of a “live” performance are captured.


About albums AkashA, being an independent band, does not depend on a major music label for sales, marketing and distribution. On album production standards here, Henderson scoffs that this is an “MIC (Malaysian Inferiority Complex) issue.


“This illusion that the US is so much better than Malaysia is just that — an illusion. “When we were at SXSW (South by Southwest) Festival 2010 in Austin earlier this year, we saw one or two great artistes, and piles and piles of incredibly ordinary and, in many cases, crappy music. It’s the same here — there’s a large percentage of rubbish underneath an excellent layer of cream. The cream of what goes on here is every bit as good as the cream anywhere else in the world — in some cases even better. This applies to recording standards as well as the music itself.


“And the big multimillion dollar studio is dead. These days, if you’ve a couple of nice mics and a computer, you really can make fabulous sounding records.” Going global On the band’s prospects globally, Henderson thinks the “real problem with many Malaysian artistes is that they often want to skip local achievements and instead set their sights on being big in America or Britain or something”. “Malaysia is a fabulous place to make music in. If a band honestly adopts a powerful local view, it stands a much better chance of achieving some international goals.” Jan 8 show You can get a feel of AkashA’s world of fusion music at its upcoming 8pm performance at KLPaC on Jan 8. You also get a DVD when you buy either the first or second CD at the show. Visit www.klpac.org for details of AkashA Malaysia Sophomore Album Launch or call 03-4047 9000. Admission: RM57.


- News Straits Times


"Seamless AkashA"


Local world music group AkashA deftly combines different ethnic elements into a cohesive whole. ADLIN ROSLI finds out how the group does this with such ease

AKASHA is not a group you’ll hear on regular youth-targeted radio or part of the typical weekly gig circuit. This is a seven-person world music group that has impressed the Rainforest Music Festival crowd two years in a row and is an in-demand act for jazz and world music festivals.

The group comprises Jamie Wilson on guitars, Greg Henderson on bass, Badar Fawzy on cajon/rebana, Kumar Karthigesu on sitar, Eric Li on piano, Vick Ramikrishnan on tabla/kunnakol and Sivabalan S. Shanmuga Sundram on mridangam/kanjira/kunnakol.

Combining such a variety of instruments to make cohesive music seems like quite a challenge but Sivabalan says it’s not as difficult as it seems.

“While it looks difficult, I’d say that music is probably the only medium of communication that crosses all creed, nationality,and language.

“Using the different scales available, AkashA makes some twists and is able to bring the diffrent flavours of a varied genre together.

“The challenge, is making it interesting, captivating and enjoyable,” Sivabalan says.

Finding inspiration for AkashA is also not difficult. As the group draws from a myriad of styles, Sivabalan explains how anything can lead to creating good music.

“Inspiration come from all genres of music, styles, techniques and music colours. Music in Malaysia is plentiful and comes in different forms.

“There is also a wide range of instruments available from Malaysia. If you ask me, musical inspiration is really...1Malaysia,” he says.

All the members in AkashA are established musicians. The personal reward for each member as part of AkashA seems to be in how each person gets to find a different way to play their mastered instrument.

“AkashA gives me an opportunity to exercise my years of traditional classical instruments.

“The result of the attempted fusion has been fantastic. Personally, for me, it’s bringing mridangam, kanjira and kunnakol into a new musical medium, rendering it versatile and compatible.

“Who would’ve ever thought of a kanjira playing in a joget or the kunnakol accompanying a bossanova (tune)?”

Most of all though, the men in AkashA genuinely enjoy each others company. The chemistry makes for a group with an energetic vibe an audience can’t miss.

“The guys are funny lads and we have an awesome time in both rehearsals and performances. I, for one, thoroughly enjoy myself when I’m with them. Just watch us play and you will see that,” says Sivabalan.

You can check them out online at www.akashamalaysia.com.

But to really experience the group and see why they are such a popular festival choice, you’ll have to see AkashA live.

- NST


"Party With AkashA"

AkashA brings new harmonies to world music, writes SUBHADRA DEVAN

UNDER the musicianship of Kumar Karthigesu last Saturday, the sitar was afire at the showcase concert of local fusion band AkashA’s to promote its sophomore album, Karakoram Highway.

Playing the 10 new tracks, composed by guitarist and AkashA member Jamie Wilson Abdullah, the sitar sang sweet and crisp in the energetic maelstrom of percussion.


With no vocalist in the seven-member band, tabla player Vick Ramakrishnan and mridangam player Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundram, sounded out beats and made the ensuing konnukol take up that role.


But the music is still identifiable as Malaysian, even with Mozart in the rearranged Ants In My Turban from the debut album.

Formed just before the Rainforest World Music Festival in 2008, AkashA has since made terms such as konnukol and instruments like the ganjeera almost as well known as the kompang to many Malaysians.


Most of the band members came from the former Prana (under Samuel Dass) and Inner Space (under the Temple Of Fine Arts).

With an adventurous Mohd Shah Nizam Azis on various drums and hanging xylophone, Greg Henderson on bass guitar and the amazingly talented Eric Li on piano and accordion, AkashA brought new harmonies to the term “world music”.

This was evident from the complex layering in Wilson’s new compositions including a melodious Santubong, bluesy Bison Blues, bhangra title track and almost frenetic Chasing The Camel.


To those used to such fodder as commercial pop, radio-friendly hits or classical music, the seamless bonding of Eastern and Western instruments into a jugalbandi sound is refreshing and enjoyable.

But the AkashA fans who filled Pentas 1 of Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre in Sentul West, knew what was in store. They clapped, whistled and yelled their approval after the band offered its soulful renditions from Karakoram Highway, and later, from Into... AkashA for encores. In fact, the fans got the melodies they yelled out for, with easy and charming grace from Wilson.
It was like partying with your favourite band, at home.


- News Straits Times


"Witty titles, delightful music"

THEY took last year’s Rainforest Music Festival by storm, and judging by their performance at a recent concert in Penang, it is little wonder that all-Malaysian band AkashA continue to receive thunderous ovations wherever they go.

Themed Into.AkashA, the live concert held at the Temple of Fine Arts Penang featured an eclectic collection of tunes from their latest album, predominantly classical Indian music interwoven with western.

It was a seamless bonding of eastern and western instruments and musical genres.

AkashA’s multicultural lineup comprised Jamie Wilson (guitar), S. Sivabalan (mridangam), Greg Henderson (bass), Kumar Karthigesu (sitar), Vick Ramakrishnan (tabla) and Badar Ben Taleb (percussion).

The musicians come from a variety of different backgrounds, and having been friends for quite a while, they came together when Sivabalan received an invite to put together a band to play at the Rainforest Music Festival 2008.

Since then, they have gone from strength to strength, and it promises to be a busy year ahead as they already have several oversea gigs lined up. But local music fans need not fret, as they are also slated to grace this year’s Rainforest Music Festival too.

“Although it’s only our first time here, it was a truly wonderful experience. Everybody really enjoyed themselves and were very much into the music,” Wilson said as he autographed CDs for fans.

Their tunes, ranging from upbeat tempos to sombre melancholies, took the audience from one state of mind to another. Playful pieces such as the Ants In My Turban and Ipoh Hor Fun got the crowd clapping along, while the slow-burning Karunaa tugged at one’s emotions.

When quizzed about the witty song titles, Wilson said they usually chose something that summed up the mood of the song in question, and tried to keep it light-hearted.

“To be honest, we write the song first. The titles come a long time later,” he explained, adding that Ipoh Hor Fun was written as the band was driving to Ipoh one day, with the Hor Fun symbolising the many Chinese-inspired notes found in the song.

Wilson felt himself privileged, as although many westerners played Indian music, he was one of the very few fortunate enough to play in a band with members highly skilled and trained in classical Indian music.

Other tunes, among them the Bourbon Lassi, Bombay Bossanova, Irish Joget for Sitar, Ganjeera and Tenor Ukelele, Damascus and Java Ragaa, were a potpourri of traditional music styles which proved that good music, no matter where they’re from, go well together.

For more information about the group, visit www.akashamalaysia.com.

- The Star, May 13, 2009


"On an AkashA-ic High"

MALAYSIAN ethnic fusion group AkashA took a packed Pentas 1 at the KL Performing Arts Centre by storm, recently, as it warmed up for its week-long stint in the US.

The group, comprising Jamie Wilson on guitars and tenor ukelele, Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundram (mridangam, ganjeera, konnakol vocals), Greg Henderson (bass guitar), Kumar Karthigesu (sitar), Vick Ramakrishnan (tabla, konnakol), Badar Fawzy Ben Taleb (percussions) and Eric Li (piano) took an audience of over 800 on a world music tour that covered Malaysia, India, China, Java, Spain and even Ireland.

(Konnakol is the South Indian art of vocal percussion.)

The music gelled so well that by the end of the first evening, Li from Shanghai, originally touted as a guest artiste, was inducted as a full-fledged member.
The two nights were packed with gems composed by Wilson that allowed his compadres to shine with amazing chemistry and a seemingly psychic connection among the players.

Unlike the world fusion presented by such exponents as Yanni and Kitaro, which is largely embellished and enhanced by electronic synthesisers, AkashA’s magic lay in the heady talents of its instrumentalists and the eclectic genres that have influenced and inspired them on their journey.

There wasn’t a pregnant pause when they turned on the lights. Every moment was filled with memorable movements, Badar stopping the band in its tracks as he extended a solo, the konnakol traditionalists, heads bobbing and swaying as they cajoled each other, and Wilson, Li and Kumar trading fiery riffs as Henderson kept his acoustic bass thumping in time.

The shows were held in conjunction with the launch of the group’s debut CD, Into... AkashA, a collection of 10 songs composed by Wilson, and Kunna Kool, co-written with Sivabalan and Vick.

The live versions at KLPaC, however, were considerably longer because of the ad-libbing and some well-received thunder-stealing, especially when the spotlight shifted to Sivabalan, Vick and Badar, who used cachon, djembe, ganjeera, mridangam and tablas to stir the crowd.

With them keeping an infectious rhythm going, the rest of the band — Wilson, Kumar, Henderson and Li — went on a melodic world music journey. Li made a devil of a difference, his keyboard infusions giving Indian-styled rock ragas a breezy, Latin jazz feel.

Each night boasted guests. The first, emceed by Harith Iskandar, saw pub veteran Vijay David on a fusionised Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin), while the second featured Afro-American percussionist Steve Thornton and emcee Jason Lo.

The group now has a bag of CDs to sell and maybe a tough crowd to conquer in the US. Its first performance will be at the Tubac Plaza World Music Days on April 11 at Tubac, near Phoenix, Arizona, at the invitation of Global Change Multi-Media, an organisation dedicated to aiding musicians with positive, proactive and uplifting music and lyrics.

“Our aim is to actualise their talents and artistic destinies,” said Mycenay Plyler, its booking agent, in its invitation to AkashA.

“Through our Musicians That Need To Be Heard Network (www.MusiciansNet.org), we provide instruments, training, performing and audio-video recording opportunities, and a residency programme to individuals who would not otherwise have access to these tools,” Mycenay emphasised.

“We selected AkashA as the feature group due to its diverse instrumentation, ethnicity and music styles.

“Such a representation enriches students and music enthusiasts musically, promoting a bilateral understanding between Malaysia and the US on artistic possibilities.”

The other stint is at the invitation of Harvard University’s Sangeet in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which promotes South Asian music. AkashA is scheduled to perform a concert and conduct specialised, interactive workshops for its students.

“We are presenting AkashA to our students and the greater campus community because of its pioneering work in the field of fusion,” said Sinhumathi Revuluri, Sangeet’s advisor and assistant professor of the department of music.

• For more information and CD availability, log on to www.akashamalaysia.com - News Straits Times Malysia


"Spirited Music of AkashA"

WOW! Talk about a warmup to a warmup to a warmup to gigs in the United States and the launch of a debut ethnic music CD!

Malaysia¡¯s very own ethnic Indian fusion group AkashA which performed at No Black Tie, last week, performs at Backyard Pub and Restaurant in Taman Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur tonight at 9.30pm.

These two gigs seem to be warmups for the group¡¯s mammoth public performances at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, this coming Sunday and Monday.

These shows are all in conjunction with the launch of the group¡¯s debut CD titled Into AkashA. Next month, AkashA head to the United States for performances in Phoenix, Arizona, and Harvard University in Boston.

The ensemble featuring the charismatic Jamie Wilson on the acoustic and electric steel guitar, also features Eric Li (piano), Badar Fawzi Ben Taleb (percussions), Vick Ramakrishnan (tabla), Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundram (mridangam), Greg Henderson, (bass) and Kumar Karthigesu (sitar).
With its roots in groups like Prana (Life Breath) and Inner Space, and Wilson¡¯s stint with Asiana, AkashA is an exciting band that fuses traditional Eastern musical training with contemporary Western ideas.

The root word, kash, means ¡°that which illuminates or radiates¡±. Akasha is also another word for ¡°spirit¡±, the fifth element in witchcraft.

Together, that¡¯s what this magnificent seven will weave onstage tonight.

The septet will play its own versions of hits from the 1960s, ¡®70s and ¡®80s and hopefully some originals.

Don¡¯t be surprised to hear Kumar cast his magic spell on something like George Harrison¡¯s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, or Jamie Wilson taking off on a Jimi Hendrix or John McLaughlin number, while Badar, Vick and Sivabalan thunder away on their varied Indian drums.

With Greg thumping steadily on bass guitar, the other one to watch out for in AkashA is Li.

For details, call 012-201-6333 or 03-6201-0318.

AkashA¡¯s performance at KLPaC in Sentul Park, Jalan Ipoh, KL is at 8pm on Sunday and Monday.

- News Straits Times


"AkashA Live in Ipoh"

Words and pictures simply will not be able to explain the excitement and the pure energy that the band and us experienced during this exciting musical journey (around the world) which was just filled with suprise and excitement, we just could not get enough and kept wanting more encores. The musical genius and spontaniety of the musicians were unprecedented. As one our of our guests mentioned, for this one night, a small group of Ipohans experienced world class music at its best in closed proximity unlike all the others who would have to pay to see them in KL, Europe and US this coming summer.

For all those who were there, I am sure you know what I am on about, for all those who missed it¡­¡­. cheerio
- http://jazzandbits.com/2009/03/fusion-music-malaysia-ipo/


"Sarawak, Malaysia: Adventures on the Island of Borneo - Page Two"

Playing the Blues on a Sitar
These guys called Akasha from Malaysia rocked the rainforest with their blues number played on a sitar plus twangy Indian drums, guitar and bongos. They also played Jimi Hendrix' Voodoo Child, with that unforgettable riff from the beginning repeated over and over. It was a fantastic performance and the most exciting band of the night by far!

- http://www.gonomad.com/destinations/0807/malaysia-borneo-sarawak-two.html


"Into Fusion"

Announcing the arrival of new kid on the fusion block, AkashA. Its members offer the passion of newbies married to decades of collective musical experience.

OVER the years, the local music scene has generated a wide range of talented world music/fusion combos ?so much so that its easy to become blase about the high standards set by the musicians that have graced our shores. However, whether its the work of established outfits like Lewis Pragasams Asiabeat or the lesser-known but sorely missed first incarnation of the 50 Cents Jazz Club, such music tends to be taken for granted, at home, anyway.

The newest kid on the block, AkashA, is not really all that fresh when one considers the wealth of experience its members have between them. However, there is definitely a vitality and sense of purpose to its music that makes me rather hopeful that this outfit will have the staying power that has eluded so many of its predecessors. It helps too, that while the groups musicianship is of a high quality, it is tempered by a good dose of humour.


Last Sunday, AkashA launched its debut album Into ... AkashA with an intriguing show at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) at Sentul West. The event marked a rapid transformation of the group from one-off project to a going concern.

Formed as a result of a fusion (pun intended) of groups Prana (not to be confused with an indie-rock band of the same name) and Inner Space, AkashA made its debut at last year Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak. The guys hit it off so well that within months they were in the recording studio cutting a disc.

Featuring a multi-cultural line-up, AkashA comprises Jamie Wilson (guitar), S. Sivabalan (mridangam), Greg Henderson (bass), Kumar Karthigesu (sitar), Vick Ramakrishnan (tabla), Badar Ben Taleb (percussion), and Eric Li (piano). Wilson pens most of the group’s original material but the music is such that every member has room to showcase his individual style.


The night of the live show proved to be a particularly poignant one as Badar mother had passed away earlier in the day and he amazingly found the strength to continue with this performance. The show, which was naturally dedicated to her memory, was an engrossing affair showcasing the material on the debut album. Much of the music would not be unfamiliar to fans of classical Indian music-tinged fusion.

The show began with a kunnakol round by Sivabalan and Vick. For those not in the know, kunnakol is a traditional vocalisation of percussion sounds (to be honest, despite it being delivered at an impressive speed, im not really that fond of kunnakol). The band then burst into Bourbon Lassi, the first of many pieces that was built on a melange of styles.

Over the course of tunes like Bombay Bossanova, Irish Joget for Sitar, Ganjeera and Tenor Ukalele and Java Raaga, we were treated to a real pot-pourri of traditional music styles set against one another in unlikely combinations.

Thus, while Wilsons guitar would veer from country picking to Irish jigs and traditional Javanese scales, Kumars sitar would likewise switch from orthodox classical playing to Western blues and rock-style riffing. All the while, the percussion trio moved seamlessly from Latin to Malay to Indian classical (even here, Vick North Indian tabla contrasted winningly with Sivabalan South Indian mridangam). Factor in Hendersons rock solid, and occasionally unison bass-playing, and Li's jazz-tinged and sporadically explosive piano work, and it was easy to understand why the buzz about this group is so great.

Jamie Wilson on guitar.
There were also very playful moments in pieces like Ants in My Turban and Ipoh Hor Fun, but I felt the unsurpassable highlight of the night was the slow-burning emotional piece, Karunaa. We were forewarned in witty rambling style by Wilson that it would be a powerful piece, but after a while the sheer melancholia of the piece became overwhelming. Starting as a guitar/sitar duet, it gradually built up into a piercing aching monster, thanks I think to some very subtle but potent lines by Shanghai native Li.

An interesting footnote to the show saw pub scene veteran Vijay David emerge to lead the band through a rather unique version of Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love!

A couple of days before the show, I managed to catch most of the group for a quick chat at the Temple of Fine Arts, literally the spiritual home of some of the group members.

I opened by asking if fusion legends Shakti were an influence and Wilson couldnt help quipping, just because there's a white guy playing guitar (in reference to the legendary John McLaughlin) with Indian percussionists doesnt mean its Shakti! We really do try and include a much wider range of styles in our music.

We dont want to limit AkashA's music to one genre?said Vick, the music isnt just Indian or Malay, but also incorporates everything from Latin to Russian styles.

Whats really reflective of our own wide range of backgrounds,?added Kumar. Jamie and Greg are Australians living in Malaysia, while, conversely, Vick is a Malaysian living in Australia, and Eric has moved to Malaysia from China.

Aside from having varied musical and cultural backgrounds, the members of AkashA take on different responsiblities to help the group. Sivabalan is very much involved with promotion, while Henderson, a recording engineer by trade, also took care of most of the technical aspects of putting the record together.

In fact,Henderson revealed, one of the most satisfying aspects of making this record is seeing Jamie get so enthusiatic about the project. He worked with him as a professional making pop records for the last 10 years or so, and while he does a great job, he never been quite as excited as he has been with AkashA

Indeed, as music industry insiders, Wilson and Henderson are well aware that the market for CDs is rapidly shrinking. Still, the band made a collective decision that committing their music to tape was an essential step in their development.

Having Greg aboard was priceless said Wilson, because we now have a recording of great quality. We wanted to have a producer who really understood the process instead of somebody just sticking good musicians in front of a microphone.

Indeed, Henderson managed to get the whole project recorded over the course of just 15 to 20 days (albeit spread across a three month period)!

We are also aware of downloading trends and the move away from CDs,?said Kumar, and we have tried to pre-empt that problem partly by giving away the CD to anyone who paid for their tickets at the KLPac shows. We know that the band is still evolving and that we will sound different in a live context, but we view the album as our calling card


Most of AkashA’s members are in their 30s and all are very experienced, but they are well aware that similarly talented groups have failed to reach their potential because they couldnt stick together long enough.

We know that such groups tend to break-up, and were all experienced it before ourselves?conceded Kumar. Just this time, we are more mature and quite realistic, and hopefully we will able to perservere.

Sivabalan concluded, it helps that we all do our own thing outside the group and dot depend on it for income. Also, we have known each other for a long time now, and we get along really well as friends as well. AkashA is at a stage where we are just beginning to get a lot of offers to play prestigious overseas festivals, and, hopefully, with the right financial backing, we will be able to spread our message
INTO ... AkashA is available through akashamalaysia.com.

- The Star, Malaysia


"AkashA Continues to be Simply Smashing!"

Introducing the Rojak that is AkashA

AkashA, the band means many things. Their name literally means ethereal space - and they are indeed otherworldly.

AkashA is rojak (meaning mixture like the Malaysian salad dish) ?having 3 Indians, 2 Caucasians, 1 Malay and 1 Mainland Chinese jamming well together like they’ve known and played with each other for years. The band members are Jamie Wilson bin Abdullah (compositions, guitar, gambus, vocals), Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundram (mridangam, ganjira, vocal percussions), Greg Henderson (bass guitar), Kumar Karthigesu (sitar, dilruba), Vic Ramakrishnan (tabla, vocal percussions), Badar Ben Taleb (world percussions, vocals), and Eric Li (piano). They are bonded by a common love for strange but good music, and for Malaysia.

Incidentally, their music is also rojak ?from a hodgepodge of musical instruments ranging from the sitar to bass guitar, to the funky fusion of their songs.

Imagine savouring a dish prepared by 7 top world chefs ?each tossing in their favourite unique ingredient, in their own style. It tastes strange, yet familiar. Peculiar, yet comforting. Traditional, yet refreshing. And astoundingly scrumptious. This is definitely not the case where too many cooks spoil the rojak. These cooks make the rojak work. had my first taste of the addictive sounds of Akasha at last year’s Rainforest World Music Festival. They completely blew me away. The 30 minute of so performance only left the ecstatic audience clamouring for more.

So good were they that the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) organisers requested them to make a comeback appearance at RWMF this year. These boys are also going places having received invites to perform next month at Harvard University in the United States. How cool is that?

Thus, when they invited me to attend their concert cum inaugural Into AkashA’s album launch held on Sunday and last night, I was thrilled to my socks. Imagine, 90 minutes of pure AkashA music.That’s 3 times more than what I had in RWMF. I marked the sacred date on my calendar and found myself ensconced within the cosy depths of KLPAC last night.

This being a Monday night, the hall was half-filled. A stark contrast to the night before when it was a full house. Nevertheless the fewer crowds meant that the audience could get better seats up front. During the 2nd interval, Jamie Wilson (who’s also the spokesperson of the band on stage) invited us to fill up the seats nearer to the stage, which I promptly did. The view from the first row of seats was truly the best! I could see their every expression and how their fingers flew over their instruments. Simply priceless.

A Reunion with an Old Friend

They proceeded to play songs from the album as well as a couple of fresh tunes they composed very recently.

To kick things off, they played Bourbon Lassi ?starting with Sivabalan and Vic’s signature vocal percussions. It was also the song they chose to begin their show at RWMF last year. Other old favourites include groovy Brickfields Blues (the place the band was birthed) and the dizzyingly fast-paced and funny Ants in My Turban.

It was a reunion of sorts. I felt the rush and excitement that only reuniting with a dear old friend can give. There are so many beloved traits to delight upon and tantalising new updates to catch up on.

A diffrent beat

Purists may hate them. Newbies may wonder what the brand of music it was that is assailing their ears. But one thing is for sure: AkashA’s music is original, impactful, never neutral nor bland.

As I listened to these sweetly familiar tunes ?I realised that I’ve only heard them once before but they have managed to etch themselves into my soul somehow. That’s how powerful and gripping their music is.

I can imagine their music fitting in everywhere ?from swanky classy lounges to the alleys of Brickfields, it has definite mass appeal and as emcee Jason Lo said in his inspiring introduction of the band, it feeds the soul.

Throughout the 90-minute concert, they sat and did their thing.And the audience was thoroughly enraptured. There were no gimmicks employed. No special effects done. Of course, there was the percussionist maestro Steve Thornton who was a bundle of energy on stage to heat things up. But generally, the boys were seated and sedate and still commanded everyone’s attention with their great music.

They also dedicated a dreamy and surreal Javanese number to Datin Tiara Jacquelina and her husband as it was inspired by the highly acclaimed play Puteri Gunung Ledang. As the song was playing I could imagine the scene where the princess was waiting for Hang Tuah in vain on the slopes of Gunung Ledang.

The Irish Joget for Sitar, Ganjeera and Tenor Ukelele nearly had me breaking out into an Irish jig or was it joget? I couldn’t really make up my mind, heh.

At end the fantastic concert, they played a light-hearted epic-like Chinese tune humorously titled “Ipoh Hor Fun? Jamie and gang had everyone bursting into laughter as they made kung fu noises on stage to go along with the catchy song.

The 7 Maestros
The warm and down-to-earth seven members of Akasha were maestros in their own right. In the hands of the divine Kumar Karthigesu, the typical Indian sitar became Western, Malay, Chinese, Javanese and even Spanish. Who would have thought the verily traditional sitar can be so funky and work so well with non-Indian flavoured songs?

The elderly Indian lady who sat beside me told me that Kumar is one of the three sitar gurus in the Temple of Fine Arts, a classical Indian performing arts school in Brickfields. Kumar was recently awarded with the illustrious Anugerah Karyawan Seni and the friendly Indian lady beside me turned out to be Vatsala Sivadas, the school’s dance director.

A recent addition to the group is talented piano player Eric Li who hails from Shanghai but fell in love with Malaysia. He literally jazzed up the songs with brilliant complicated pieces, playing so effortlessly as if he was blessed twelve fingers instead of just ten.

Vic Ramakrishnan’s palms pounded the tablas unceasingly, mercilessly until his hands became a blur. Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundram made the mridangam sing and did the small but potently loud ganjeera (a mini tambourine-like instrument) ample justice. Together with Badar Ben Taleb, they formed a formidable percussion team that added immense punch to Akasha.

The affable Greg Henderson gave good bass on his guitar and Jamie Wilson could be seen totally immersed in the music that the group was churning so energetically. In the slower songs, he plucked each guitar note expressively, exquisitely and passionately. In the faster songs, his tousled blonde head bobbed up and down in time with the music. The experienced guitarist has performed with rock legend Jimmy Barnes, guitar maestros Tommy Emmanuel, Ian Moss, Richard Clapton and many others. The two Aussie guys may look Caucasian on the outside, but they are definitely Malaysian rojak on the inside.

Mixed races, fusion tunes and passion for all things local ?surely, a band can’t get any more Malaysian than AkashA.


- www.virtuslmalaysia.com


Discography

CD Album 'Into...AkashA' in 2009
CD Album 'Karakoram Highway' in 2011

Audio Link Stream(mySpace radio)

www.myspace.com/akashaworldwide/radio

You can check out Youtube Videos from the links below

outube Links

AkashA @ Kuala Lumpur
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSW05YFhnds ( Into AkashA album Launch)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4-bAwDASyk (Esperanto)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46Tbw761NSw (Bourbon Lassi)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yiuD1LKS94 ( Zapin untuk Mariam)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK97N7BrivU (Ipoh Hor Fun)

AkashA @ Penang
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3twTceEVMo (Ipoh Hor Fun)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3twTceEVMo (Bamboleo cover)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duM7kdKSBrU (Java Raaga)

AkashA @ Johore Baru Arts Festival, Johore
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEsnEMjepw4 (Zapin untuk Mariam)

AkashA @ Rainforest World Music Festival , Sarawak
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkVrkJwSEnk (2008 pt 1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1RFz_G4bg0 (2008 pt 2)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXIapuXViZU (2008 - Brickfields Blues)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIOoxyX5A2I (2009 - Chasing the Camel with Beat It cover)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8hrsgLMab0 (2009 preview- Bombay Bossanova)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fxd3S9HOk6Y (2009 preview- Chasing the Camel)

AkashA @ SXSW 2010- Austin, Texas, USA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17tOp5rryzw (Chasing the Camel)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLQf-8TFqO8 ( Brickfields Blues)

AkashA @ Shanghai World Expo, China 2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9483yfwM3yQ

AkashA @ World Music and Food Festival 2011, Hong Kong
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96zOieKKXPo

AkashA @ Delhi International Arts Festival 2011, New Delhi, India
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEhPuSdqMNE

Photos

Bio

There seems to be a lot of fusion bands that try and fuse different elements to create a new sound. AkashA has been successful in bringing together both sounds of the North and South Indian percussions, the beautiful strings of the Eastern Sitar and the Western guitar all woven together with tickling of the piano ivories against the percussion's of the world. Instead of just fusing 2 different geographical elements, this band also moves across different genres of music. AkashA succeeds in bringing all the elements together to present different styles and influences, ie the Bossanova, Old Western, Blues, Jazz, Rumba, Calypso, Arabian, African Highwlife, Qawalli and etc. The band being a Malaysian one also draws its influence from its multi-ethnic country i.e Malay, Indian and Chinese music forms. AkashA shot to the world stage with its debut at the world-renowned Rainforest World Music Festival 2008 in Borneo and there has been no stopping them since. Having launched 2 critically acclaimed album 'Into ..AkashA' in 2008 and 'Karakoram Highway' in 2011, each selling thousands of copies around the globe, the band has traveled to over 12 countries, spreading over 4 continents and over 130 gigs in a short span of 6 years. To name a few invites and attendance at festivals, e.g

Rainforest World Music Festival,Sarawak- 2008 & 2009
Johore Baru Arts Festival, Johore- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
Swan Festival of Lights, Perth Australia -2009, 2010
Ulsan World Music Festival, Ulsan, South Korea- 2009
Kala Utsav Festival, Singapore- 2009
SXSW Festival 2010, Austin, Texas, USA - 2010
International Blues and World Music Festival Phuket, Thailand -2010, 2011, 2013
Borneo Cultural Festival, Sibu Sarawak, 2010
Shanghai World Expo 2010- China- 2010
National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa- 2010
Delhi International Arts Festival, India 2011
Hong Kong World Music and Food Festival -2011
Mood Indigo 2011, IIT, Bombay- 2011
Tour de India- 2011
Kuala Lumpur International Music and Lights Festival- 2012
Colombo Interntional Music Festival 2012, Sri Lanka- 2012

Gwangju World Music Festival, South Korea – 2013

Penang World Music Festival – 2013

National Arts Festival, Fethiye, Turkey, 2014.

Spotlight Performance at Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s Dewan Philharmonic Petronas, KLCC - 2010