Music Review: Autorickshaw’s Meter
(TORONTO, ON) – This year I embarked on a personal journey to travel to Stratford and see as many plays as possible. My spouse accompanied me only on part of this journey. Given my extreme interest in art and culture I had to go it alone for many plays.
During my solo journeys I took the Stratford Festival express bus and, in the process, met many creative and intriguing people, both on the bus and at Stratford. On one such trip, I arrived in Stratford on a sunny day and chose not to go to my usual restaurant for lunch, opting instead to stroll by the river.
Suddenly, I heard this beautifully haunting and intriguing music. I realized that a live concert was in process and I quickly found a spot amongst the many to sit.
Autorickshaw was playing an incredibly intimate open air concert courtesy of the Stratford Music Festival. The band last played this little known music festival in 2006 to great acclaim. This time, Autorickshaw, the Canadian award winning Indo-fusion trio, performed from their new album Meter, which was a 2018 Juno nominee for World Music Album of the Year.
The members of Autorickshaw are the vocally gifted Suba Sankaran, the talented Dylan Bell on bass/beatbox, and Ed Hanley on tabla. The tabla is a subtle and melodic percussion instrument consisting of small, different sized hand drums used to control rhythm and tempo. The instrument’s origin dates back to the 18th Century. When played by Hanley, a most seductive, melodic, and subtle music is created.
All three members of Autorickshaw are extremely brilliant artists who came together in 2003 to form an intriguing world music group. Their music has been described as a fusion of jazz, folk, funk, pop, and classic Indian music.
The group has toured extensively in Canada, the US, Europe, India, and Nepal.
In Stratford, the audience seemed delightfully engrossed in the music and perhaps transported in time and place, making the concert a resounding success. The lingering musical arrangements and haunting vocals were wonderfully fascinating and unique, reminiscent of ancient music from faraway lands.
All together, Autorickshaw’s music is a unified, utterly charming, and relevant.
Haunting female and jazzy male vocals evoke the experience of another language and entering into an imaginary world. Are we in an episode of the popular FX show Legion? Or, are we someplace in our consciousness yet to be discovered? Wherever we are this track has transported us to another place.
Autorickshaw uses a similar haunting vocal track, but then moves into a bustling, high energy sound, reminiscent of traffic in India. Skilfully facilitated by Hanley on the tabla. If you let your imagination wonder, you may actually find yourself in the middle of buzzing, hectic activity in Bombay or Mumbai.
Plays with sound and lyrics to create a story of a struggling life of loss with spiritual undertones set in an urban or suburban environment. The song is reminiscent of movies where a character accidently walks into a situation where someone desperately requires rescue. The story telling in Mercy Street feels very much like a movie.
The Trouble with Hari
Another, yet dissimilar, story of salvation involving an intelligent and creative rural girl living in India and desperately looking for a creative escape from her mundane life. I found the song surprisingly upbeat. Perhaps the song needed to be upbeat because, without creativity and hope, humans are domed to oblivion.
The music of Autorickshaw is mystical, memorizing, relevant, and empowering. Borrowing from both Western and Eastern traditions to form a truly perfect and delightful blend of jazz, folk, pop, and traditional Indian music and arranged to create an entirely modern and memorable world music sound. A pleasure to listen to Autorickshaw.