Rahul Mukerji is a guitarist/musician based in Maryland, USA. Born in India, he has been performing live for over fifteen years, in his band Iritis and in other capacities. Despite this, Ma De Re Sha is his debut album under his own name, representing the culmination of a career’s worth of solo writing and six years of recording and further composition. A fusion of his Indian heritage and his passion for heavier music with flair from world music and jazz, Mukerji claims the record is a “melting pot” of influences. John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Jeff Beck, Black Sabbath and Joe Satriani all come up in comparison, not only in aesthetic terms but also as a testament to Mukerji’s impressive guitar chops.
The virtuosity is apparent from Mukerji’s opening track “Exit 13” with technique-forward guitar under rich bass lines and a rhythm section led by the traditional Indian tabla drums. Meandering through different textures, the track’s conclusion is an all-out metal chug-along that has a hypnotically mutable pattern.
“Sita” uses a similar flip-the-switch compositional style, opening on gorgeous flute and traditional instrumentation enhanced by whimsical wandering. Eventually Mukerji’s classic fusion tones overtake the arrangement, before the piece shifts once more to a heavier traditional rock style. Though the aesthetics may seem incongruous on paper, Mukerji makes the transition seem easy, if not totally natural. Though many have technical skill on guitar, it’s a testament to Mukerji’s musicality that he can make these sections sit together in one composition so comfortably.
The record keeps adding elements to Mukerji’s template of world-inflected guitar-maestro rock. “Fingerprints” adds a Clapton-like hi-fi blues to the mix, while “Children of I-2” and “A Path Less Travelled” let him work his magic over field recordings of rain. These two tracks in particular make a neat pair-- the former technique-heavy and distorted, and the latter gentle and rich with ambient echo.
Some of the material may blur together to the less dyed-in-the-wool guitar geeks of the listening audience, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. Mukerji’s “signature blend” of Satriani/Steve Vai leads and tabla appears several times, as on “Zidd” and “Balsakhi,” the latter of which embraces an exciting mysticism and brings it to searing extremes. He also avoids keeping things full-throttle throughout, adding dynamic depth to the record; “Train Ride from Siliguri” for instance keeps the guitars gentler and allows the tabla and bass more prominence, while on the ballad “Hope Anew” or the album’s title track, he sticks with more traditional western rock instrumentation. Having a flow to the moods and styles, alongside Mukerji’s impressive stylistic vocabulary, keeps things from ever really growing stale.
By the time Mukerji takes a long ostinato break in the middle of album closer “Sinner” you’ll be sold on both his talent and his creative vision. This album contains so much to unpack, and there’s a genuine sense of artistry steering the whole enterprise. Anyone who considers themselves a student of the guitar, or of contemporary world music, should familiarize themselves with Ma De Re Sha.
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