Kali Descend!

Sumitra Guha is returning to Seattle next week!

Sumitra Guha

Sumitra Guha, 2008. Photo via myspace.com/sumitraguha

For those of you who don’t already know about her, Sumitra Guha is a highly regarded classical Indian vocalist whose technique straddles the traditional Hindustani and Carnatic styles.  She also happens to be a profoundly adventurous soul.  In 2008, at the urging of percussionist Peijman Kouretchian (of Secret Chiefs 3 and Girth, plus a new slew of Oakland-based projects), Sumitra performed a pair of outstanding concerts in Seattle with Kali Descend!, a heady hybrid ensemble comprised of Peijman, Master Musicians of Bukkake‘s Randall Dunn and Bill Horist, Keith Lowe and Andrew McInnis.  Next Tuesday, a new incarnation of Kali Descend! will be performing at Neumo’s. (See Dave Segal’s Up and Coming for The Stranger.)  Based on the performance I witnessed in 2008, this show promises a resounding emanation of infinite awesomeness.

Kali Descend

Kali Descend. Performance at Rendezvous Jewelbox Theatre, May 8, 2008

Sumitra Guha will also be available for private lessons and workshops in Seattle through September 13th. (Contact Peijman for details.)

Taking a lesson from Sumitra is something I highly recommend if you have the time and interest.  During her last trip to Seattle, David and I signed up for a workshop with her, which we ended up taking at Peijman’s mom’s condo along with aural assaultress Kris Hendrickson (then of San Francisco, now of Marseille, France).  At a time when I was just beginning to take seriously the prospect of dedicating myself to the production of music, my encounter with Sumitra was inspiring.  For Sumitra, the breath is the foundation of the spiritual experience, and vocal improvisation is a completely organic extension of breathing.  (I remember that David and I asked her what she thought was the relationship between spirituality and music, and the question seemed to surprise her—as if the notion that these two things could even be conceived of as separate was completely alien.)

On a personal note, the first time I saw Sumitra perform with Kali Descend! was on Mother’s Day, less than three years after my own mother’s physical body was sacrificed—along with my father’s—to the gods of highway driving. I mention this detail not to elicit sympathy, rather in an attempt to convey how the symbolism of Kali Descend!, a psychedelic hymn of devotion to She in Whose Image the Concepts of Birth and Death are Conflated, holds a particular resonance for me.

Kali the Dark Mother of Time brings death, but it is this death which provides the necessary fertilization for new life.


My household Kali. Provenance: Sir Richard Bishop's yard sale.

I could go on.  Much of my work in Midday Veil deals with themes closely related to this symbolism.  For now I will just say that while becoming a Kali devotee probably isn’t for everyone, it tends to be a common thread in the work of those I admire most.

Well then.  Are you interested in opening your soul the Dark Mother but not sure where to begin?  Attending Kali Descend! at Neumo’s on September 7th is an excellent place to start!

If you need any more convincing, dig this excerpt of a performance by Sumitra Guha in Toronto last month:

~ by emilypothast on September 3, 2010.

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