Interview with Nitish Kulkarni


Today we bring you an interview with Nitish Kulkarni, who has a brand new album coming out this winter called “Listen.”. 

BT Fasmer: First; Tell us about what you have been up to since the 2014 release of “Synesthetic”.

Nitish Kulkarni: When Synesthetic came out I was actually still finishing up my undergraduate studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. I graduated the semester after the album was released and was accepted to Berklee College of Music, where I went to pursue my master’s in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation. I spent a year studying music and the art of recording at Berklee’s international campus in Valencia, Spain. That year was a dream come true, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity… I came away with a wealth of experiences and knowledge.

BT: You are soon to release an album called “Listen.”. How did that album come about? Tell us about the recording process.

NK: “Listen.” was actually my culminating project at Berklee. My idea was to marry elements of my studies in ethnomusicology with the modern music sensibilities from all the musical styles I enjoy listening to. I wanted to make an album that make world music accessible to people who don’t normally listen to as much world music as I do, and show just how similar all of us around this tiny planet really are. I also hope to expose new audiences to rare and exotic musical instruments that they may not have heard before. While my primary goal is of course entertaining my audience, I also want to challenge them to grow and learn while enjoying these songs.

BT: One of the most interesting aspects of “Listen.” is the eclectic mix of instruments. Tell us about them and the artists you have been working with.

NK: Most of the musicians on this record were fellow classmates of mine at Berklee. I got the chance to record some instruments I had only dreamt of working with some day; from the Turkish oud to the Australian didgeridoo. Perhaps the most unusual instrument on this album is the Baroque contrabass lute—known as the theorbo. This monstrous half guitar/half harp presented its own set of challenges but was tremendously rewarding to work with. In contrast to my last album, listen. also features a couple of vocalists – singing tribal and ethnic melismas rather than lyrics.

BT: In a time where artists have access to literally millions of instruments in their DAWs, it must have been fascinating to work with artists who can actually play rare, ethnic instruments?

NK: You’re absolutely right. It’s one thing to use electronic sounds, but the minute an actual instrument enters the studio the entire song takes on a different life.

I compose and orchestrate all my pieces on my own with the help of sample libraries, but being in an environment like Berklee presented a unique opportunity to record real instruments. Most of these tracks started out as mockups with these virtual instruments, which were then replaced by recorded instruments later on. Doing it this way allowed me to give my musicians a demo that they could practice with that gave them an idea of the overall sound I was going for, but they’re the ones who have really breathed life into this album. I think there are upwards of 15 or 17 collaborators on this record! You are going to hear instruments from every continent on this album. (Except Antarctica… couldn’t get any penguins to sing for me!)

BT: I understand that you will first release a single? Tell us a bit about that.

NK: Yes! At the end of January you’ll have the chance to hear the lead single from the album, entitled “All Around You”. I recorded the Cuban bata drums and classical violin for this particular track, which has a slightly Indian touch to it. This piece is in 5/4—an unusual meter for pop music. The inspiration came from some different angles: in this case, from a couple of ethnically tinged soundtracks as well as from 90s rock music.

BT: Thank you very much, Nitish. Best of luck with the release! Here at we will for sure be, and will bring news when the album is out.