"VOYAGE" by Dhruv Ghanekar (Album Review)


"VOYAGE" by Dhruv Ghanekar (Album Review)

Indian-Folk-Jazz-Fusion has not sounded this good - nor felt so good - since, well, Dhruv's previous album "Distance".

One of the hardest things for a musician to accomplish with any album recording is to bring forth the myriad emotions, thoughts and inspirations into the project without going overboard or bringing too much of one particular influence to overshadow others.  When it comes to a "fusion"  of any genre and Indian music of any form, there is also the inevitable fear of having the outcome sound like some unintended mash-up (and we know there's plenty of that in circulation, where ragas and sundry western instruments seem to be simply slapped together in the name of "fusion').  It's one reason this writer approaches any work emanating from the subcontinent with a sense of foreboding, of having one's expectations dashed.  No such fear when it comes to any work by singer-songwriter-guitarist-composer extraordinaire Dhruv Ghanekar of Mumbai, India.  A much-respected musician and studio engineer from Mumbai, Dhruv is a class act in so many dimensions, and then some. 

In his 2015 album release entitled "Voyage", Dhruv picks up his journey where his other album "Distance" left off (although he has had other collaborative works in the interim, including as a producer within India's prolific Bollywood industry), unleashing a powerful 9-song anthology of music that is as deep as it is diverse, and as formidable as it is accessible.  Taken as a whole, there is a completely harmonious blend of varying styles, helped along in no small measure by the contributions of some major-league musicians from a broad range of styles including the likes of French-Cameroonian bassist/vocalist Etienne Mbappe (Zawinul Syndicate, John McLaughlin & Fourth Dimension); singer-guitarist Raul Midon; percussionist Trilok Gurtu; drummer Ranjit Barot; vocalist Ila Arun and others.  These legendary musicians bring their formidable prowess to bear over Dhruv's compositions that are, at their core (and simplistically put given the complexity of what goes into the music) a beautiful blend of Jazz Fusion and Indian Folk & Classical music. 

For fans who are at their core Jazz Fusion junkies, there's plenty to salivate over, right from the get-go. The opener, aptly entitled "Zawi D", immediately invokes images of Joe Zawinul (of Weather Report fame) and The Zawinul Syndicate with a blistering track featuring a driving bass line by Linley Marthe and drumming by Karim Ziad (both Zawinul alumni), plus vocoder-encased vocals, infused with the lyrical, soaring soprano sax of Carl Clements (from Massachussets), and followed by an exhilarating guitar solo by Dhruv.  There's also the title track "Voyage" that features some incredible vocal work by both New York singer-guitarist Raul Midon and musician extraordinaire Etienne Mbappe (with some gorgeous bass lines by Sheldon D'Silva and drumming by Ranjit Barot), all enclosed within the unique fusion-percussion and "bol" (drum-rap) of the great, legendary percussionist Trilok Gurtu, plus terrific acoustic guitar work for added pleasure. There's also "Chili" featuring a memorable acoustic-strings collaboration between banjo, guitar and violin that made this writer think of Bela Fleck for the ease with which the strings blended with one another.

For those more partial to the Indian side of things, there's plenty of that all through, of course (but always wrapped seamlessly within music from other worlds). Standouts include the hauntingly beautiful "Baare Baare" (featuring gorgeous vocals by Dhruv and Kalpana Patowary) that invokes fond memories of S.D. Burman and features incredible guitar solos by Dhruv to boot); "Sway With Me" - a 7-beat ditty featuring vocalist Vasuda Sharma; "Dhima" featuring vocalist Ila Arun singing in Marwari over a rocking fuzz-fused melody; and more.

All in all, this much-anticipated, superbly-produced release by Dhruv exceeds expectations and leaves one awe-struck as to the ease with which music (and musicians) from so many different cultures blend so easily with each other. Clearly there's a lot more in common between the underlying cultures than meets the eye (or in this case, ear), but it speaks volumes for the mastery and ethos Dhruv brings to the table - not just as a master musician, composer and studio engineer, but as a truly global citizen. It's hard to characterize Dhruv or his work any other way.

("VOYAGE" by Dhruv Ghanekar is available for purchase / download / streaming from fine online establishments. See links below)

Founder, WOBEON