Fusion in the name of ‘Namo’
The immediate reaction to witnessing the name of the album [‘Namo’] is whether it has political overtones, but the misapprehension is quickly addressed to the contrary on listening to the debut effort from Namo Fusion – consisting of duo Dr Narayan Raman [violin] and Sarosh Izedyar [guitar] – who launched the album across digital platforms on August 27, 2019.
A little probe into the meaning of the album’s “namo” results in the term meaning “venerated” or “homage” in Sanskrit and in Pali, and is often used in Buddhism and Jainism chanting. Hence, perhaps the title is a homage to Hindustani/Carnatic scales contained within the album or to the sounds of world music also contained therein but, either way, the six track album remains largely fresh and imaginative as popular ragas are cast in a distinctively different, yet paradoxically more lyrical style [it is, after all, entirely instrumental], all within a controlled framework.
A hint of Namo Fusion’s sounds occurred during the One Night Stand performance at Mumbai’s Hard Rock Café on August 29, 2019 as Dr Narayan and saxophonist ID Rao supported the band – co-founded by Sarosh – and played the respective parts provided to them to perfection in renditions of Pink Floyd’s repertoire with the amazing guitar work of Sarosh making the listener truly believe that original guitarist David Gilmour was performing live in India [how I still wish!]. Nevertheless, in returning to ‘Namo’, the instrumental line-up consists of violin, guitar, and saxophone by the aforementioned musicians with ID extending his talent by playing clarinet too, with the addition of Vaibhav Jadhav on bass [for the album].
The obvious commands on the album arrive directly from the violin, as on the title track [adapted from raga Saramati], with Sarosh entering the space with his immense talent on the guitar, which is effectively showcased in an interlude. However, Sarosh’s adeptness on the instrument is further reiterated with a controlled performance on the following song, “Freedom” [adapted from raga Karnarajini]. The appropriately mellow “Departed Souls” – adapted from raga Panthuvarali – commendably provides ID proof of using his capabilities on horn instruments [including clarinet], before the album ends with a reprise of the title track that dwells into the world of electronica. While two songs in between are entirely disparate – “Relay Express”, for all its monotony, kind of derails from the memorable beginnings of the album, but it is “Happy Kalimba” – adapted from raga Mohanam – which sounds like folk meets calypso, and is the album’s most memorable tune.
All in all, ‘Namo’ is consistently imaginative, and a fine debut from Namo Fusion. Also, while often showing signs of aggression for Hindustani/Carnatic purists, nothing changes the fact that ‘Namo’ is adventurous and, simultaneously, largely reflective and moody.
The album no doubt speaks about having it performed live, and it would indeed be a revelation to see the interplay between the instrumentalists, especially between violin and guitar, which is sorely missing in ‘Namo’. Nevertheless, there is no denying the Namo Fusion – the band – is an imaginative initiative that needs to be seen, not merely heard, and full credit for this musical initiative goes to Dr Narayan Raman and to Sarosh Izedyar in taking the sounds from India [in]to the world.
To listen to this album on various streaming services, here are the links: