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Indian-American musician Karsh Kale talks about his first performance at the White House

Written by Anjali Jhangiani KP | Published: June 14, 2013 3:06 am

A few weeks ago,when Delhi-based musician Karsh Kale was busy working on his new album in India,he got a pleasant surprise. It was an inquiry about the dates of his availability just three weeks prior to an event supposed to be held at White House,Washington DC,on May 28.

Within a few days,he received an official invite to the event to celebrate the accomplishments and influence that Asian-American and Pacific Islanders have had on the American culture over the past few decades. “My preparation was simply how to make a set that encompassed the journey that not only Indians but all Asians have taken in this country. I had to dig within the vaults of music I made over the years in collaboration with artistes from Japan,Okinawa,Malaysia as well as the library of music that I have created and collected representing the Indian experience,” says the singer-songwriter-composer-musician. Kale has worked on music-based shows such as Coke Studio @ MTV and The Dewarists. He also performed along with his collective at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender Pune 2012.

This was not only his first performance at the White House,but his first visit to the place as well. Before the event kicked off,Kale received another surprise when President Barack Obama mentioned his name in his speech. Obama had said,“The artistes joining us today exemplify that creed. So we’ve got performers like Karsh Kale,who fuses the best of East and West,mixing eclectic beats with the sounds of his heritage and creating music that’s distinctly his own…”

Overwhelmed,Kale says,“It validated all the struggle and work I have done to make sense of an immigrant existence through art over the years.” He was given a choice to either perform a live set which could last for 5-7 minutes or to perform an hour-long DJ set in two parts — half an hour during the event and half an hour post it. Without moment of hesitation,Kale chose the latter. “It gave me an opportunity to represent my work over the past decade and a half while creating a soundtrack and a backdrop representing all that we were there to celebrate,” says Kale.

He played his own tracks such as the popular Milan,his collaboration with Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar titled Easy,and Sunbeam from his latest album Cinema,as well as Forest by Midival Punditz,and Mumtaz by Bombay Dub Orchestra. He spent seven hours at the White House since he was scheduled for an early sound check. The East Wing,he says,is full of official paintings of past presidents and first ladies. Kale says,“We met President Obama and clicked photographs with him. He is very charming and puts the other person at ease.”

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