Open the back door of a seemingly small bar in Ruzafa, and you’ll step into a deceptively large venue space. A high ceiling with walls painted black is awash with blue and red lights, and old-fashioned filament light bulbs hang from metal cross bars along the ceiling. This is ‘La Escuela de Ruzafa’, a cultural space that hosts events, dance classes, and concerts. It also has a small bar and terrace, and is minutes away from many trendy vintage clothing shops in the barrio, such as ‘Flamingos Vintage Kilo’ and ‘Reusado Vintage’. It hosted the first concert of newly-formed group ‘Taali-Khali’, a musical quartet that blends India and the Middle East in original and reimagined compositions.
Fusion music is popular in Valencia, with many bands and concerts showing fusions of various familiar styles. Taali-Khali, though, is something different. Blending the Qanun (a traditional Middle Eastern instrument with 78 strings that are plucked with fingers or finger plectra) and the Tabla (traditional Indian sets of hand drums that are played while seated on the floor), with electric guitar and percussion, this is likely a sound you haven’t heard before.
Starting as a duo of Omran Adrah (Syria) on the Qanun, and Chaitanya Natu (India) on the Tabla, the quartet now includes electric guitarist Kris Ramakrishna (India/Switzerland) and percussionist and cajon player Sergio Martinez (Spain).
When seated in the audience, the stripped back nature of the stage and the quartet’s casual performance style lent the concert an air of familiarity. We could have been flies on the wall of a jam session in a recording studio, watching a group that has a surprising amount of humour and ease considering the short time that brought this project to fruition.
The sound of the concert moved from a rain of frenzied percussion, to steady swaying beats, to moments of sustained mournful song. If you have never considered the distinctive pitch of a drum, you will notice it in the expert pitch bending of the Tabla by Chaitanya Natu’s speedy fingers. The Qanun was the star of the show in several moments, with beautiful streams of overlapping metallic strumming that were at one moment harp-like or reminiscent of acoustic guitar chords, and then… in another moment… a complete sound of its own.
The strongest piece of the night was a composition simulating outer space. Dreamy echoing guitar chords clashed with jarring percussion via scratched, screechy cymbals and jangling keys. The warming, sustained guitar overlapped beautifully with the twinkling stars of the Qanun. The journey started with the bangs of asteroid collateral, and ended in the warmth of a sunrise over the cold expanse of the universe.
Keep a look out for Taali-Khali concerts if you enjoy fusion, experimental sound, excellent percussion, or traditional instruments. Worth it for the discovery of the Tabla and Qanun alone, Taali-Khali promises to be an easy-listening instrumental experience and interesting conversation starter.
Report by Julia McGee-Russell
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’
‘Taali-khali’ photo copyright Kshitij Singh
More info about ‘Taali-khali’
LA ESCUELA DE RUZAFA
C/ Denia, 32
Opening times: Mon-Fri 17:30h-21:30h