Just for initial background, so we’re all in the same place so to speak; Kinaara are a Leeds trio exploring the connections between the music of Punjab and the West. Brought together by singer Satnam Galsian in 2018 they aim to achieve an identity that reflects both her Punjabi heritage and their UK upbringing as a whole.
Of the four songs on the EP, three are traditional Punjabi songs; this brings with it the fact that although I may know broadly what the songs are about, I won’t know what the actual words are. I have to go on feel and sound, the mood the songs evoke. In a way this means that I am, to a certain extent, reviewing these songs in the same way as I might review instrumental music.
That said, let’s explore.
The EP’s opening track – ‘Lang Aaja’ – is a popular Punjabi folk song that takes devotion as it’s theme. Musically this is the first introduction to the fusion the band produces. It comes with a folky feel, a hint of jazz, a dose of rock. And this gives me my entry in their music because it’s not dissimilar, in places, to the sound of some Incredible String Band songs. And also, strangely you may say, some of the raga influenced music of Led Zeppelin.
I understand that this is slowed down from the original but this gives it a great groove, and importantly space. Space for the electric guitar to shine – guitar that goes from edgy folk to rock.
And over this Satnam sings – and her voice is beautiful. It has at times the feel of progressive English folk of the late 60s/early 70s.
Oh boy is this impressive.
Up next is ‘Chan Kitha Guzari Aayi’ a song of betrayal. The feel of this song is heavy – the guitar is muscular, the beat slow and somewhat menacing. It’s more rock in sound. Although it feels as though the guitar is improvising at times, around and on the rhythm. The contrast between this and Satnam’s voice makes for something that is at the same time a melding of Western and Punjabi music, AND something that is neither of these.
However you choose to describe this music, it’s amazing.
‘She Moved Through The Fair’ – yes, that traditional Irish song – is given Indian vocal inflections and ornamentation. This gives it a somewhat 60s/70s progressive folk feel but then again not. The guitar is strident, and at times almost beautifully jarring.
It builds slowly into what is almost a heavy rock guitar workout. And as it builds, Satnam improvises vocally, her voice melding with the instruments.
The thing is that this is a song to sink into, to let the weaving rhythms and sounds take you where they will. Relax, let it work it’s magic.
The EP’s closing track – ‘Heer’ – is a classic Punjabi folk tale of love and forced marriage. The song is a plea to Heer’s father for release from the wedding procession for she loves another.
I guess you could describe the original as a raga but here that is taken and built into something that combines rock and jazz with that. At times it sounds like mutant surf music and at times like acid driven psychedelic rock. And that voice weaves it’s magic over this, at times hitting a rock feel.
Before I go on I have to say that the playing on these songs is amazing – jaw droppingly amazing. The way they are put together is unexpected, quirky and beautiful.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from this EP musically. What I heard wasn’t what I had in my mind as to how it might sound at all. Yes, you can hear Punjabi sounds – how could you not – but there’s also folk, rock and jazz. Sometimes all at once. And as I mentioned before what this makes is something that is both a fusion and something not of any of those things – a new musical form.
I’m going to have to admit that it took sometime to get this music but once I did I went rapidly from merely liking it to being totally addicted. This is fabulous.
Kinaara are a Leeds trio exploring the connections between the music of Punjab and the West. Brought together by singer Satnam Galsian in 2018 they aim to achieve an identity that reflects both her Punjabi heritage and their UK upbringing as a whole.
The band are:
Vocals: Satnam Galsian
Guitar: John Hogg
Drums: Simon Henry