Artist: Al Gromer Khan
Song: After the Crash
Label: RASA Music
Genre: Contemporary Ambient/World
Sounds Like: Vilayat Khan, Enya

Single Review:

Al Gromer Khan is a German sitar player who is perhaps most known for integrating his unique influences of ambient and world music together into a contemporary stylistic approach known as “paisley music”. As a seasoned young musician in the late sixties, Al Gromer Khan participated in a host of experimental music projects and collaborated with noteworthy artists such as Cat Stevens. Inspired by capable sitar masters such as Vilayat Khan and Roshan Jamal Bhartyia, the young musician dove into over twenty years of sitar tutelage and practice in an effort to develop the contemporary ambient style evident in his music today. Having released over twenty different offerings over his long career, this particular single, titled “After the Crash” is from Al Gromer Khan’s album Chai and Roses, which was released in 2004.

One of the most striking aspects throughout the five meditative minutes of “After the Crash” is its ability to seamlessly combine modern, almost electronic-like ambiance with the pillars of traditional sitar methodology. The composition is fascinating in that it works simultaneously as a piece that is contemplative and melodic, yet at the same time, possesses enough restraint and polish to suggest that the piece was recorded in a highly modernized fashion with contemporary sensibilities. Only the roughest of comparisons can be given when considering this particular genre/sub-genre, as it is difficult to relate world music, especially sitar-driven music, to anything that might have prominence in the current market. However, in an effort to summarize the sound which encapsulates Al Gromer Khan’s “After the Crash”, a crude comparison might be made as a vocal-free combination of Ravi Shankar playing over a less-orchestral incantation of Enya. In short, old world subtly combines with new world influence to create a meditative, contemplative track which appears the rely on a the exploration of a single melodic line as the centerpiece of its musical and creative value. The melody itself is well-constructed and indicative of a seasoned musician; Al Gromer Khan doesn’t overplay, demonstrates patience, and places notes with an artful intuition that can only be the result of years of tutelage and personal discipline.

Paisley music is decidedly not for everyone, and more likely than not, the only people who will entertain this composition are people who have a passion for world and ethnic music, as well as the patience to listen to a sitar-driven composer sparingly explore variations of melody. To an untrained or unappreciative ear, it is repetitive, oversimplified, and droning. It is quite removed from the rapid-paced, energetic, flurry of notes approach that most people think of when they consider virtuoso sitar-driven music.

Al Gromer Khan is a talented sitar composer, and through this track, it is evident that he has come to nearly perfect a unique approach to world music that demonstrates signature modern sensibilities. Although the melody is well-constructed and “After the Crash” has been put together artistically and thoughtfully, there isn’t any particular facet of this composition that would catch the attention of someone who isn’t already highly interested in the world music scene. Al Gromer Khan’s skills are definitive, but his skill-set also happens to be very specialized.

Owen Matheson