New Delhi artist and label owner Kohra released his new album akhõ this week. The 10-track LP covers a lot of ground over 66 minutes with soothing ambient textures, subtle breakbeats, swirling downtempo rhythms, hypnotic melodies and even a touch of drum and bass as you get to the end of the album. It all flows evenly from start to finish.
We had Kohra take us inside the album for a better view of the ideas behind the record and since things are a bit crazy right now, he did things a little differently. He presented the overall state of mind behind the record, how the ideas came to be and then write a short poem for each song. He also dives into the sound design, various influences and the mastering process for this Director's Cut feature.
Listen to the album now and get your copy here.
The akhõ State Of Mind
I think my evolution in music is a direct representation of my evolution as a being.
This album was in the works while I was going through many changes in my personal life, which were very hard to deal with at an emotional and spiritual level. I quit drinking, gave up meat, started meditating, especially on full moon and global ascensions. This started to connect me to a deeper side of myself which was surprisingly linked to my childhood so it was a lot about unlearning what I had become and re-learning who I was again.
The journey was quite wonderful, liberating and exciting.
I wanted to write music completely stripped away from the current “trends” and “styles.” Not think too much about its relevance in terms of time since a lot of music I’ve been enjoying lately has actually been around for a few decades now. It sounds a lot more original and timeless compared to a lot of music I hear today, which seems to be a bit too confined to genre classifications.
How akhõ Was Re-Born
The name akhõ came to me during a long meditation I did on a secluded beach in Mauritius. I had a gig there and decided to take a few days to relax and meditate in the beautiful natural landscape. I was quite surprised to have come out of it with a name I’d never heard before. I returned back home and looked up this name. All I could find was that he was a mystic poet. There wasn’t much information on the internet since his work was mostly in a regional language called “Gujrati” and one that I don’t understand, although it’s from India where we have many dialects. I somehow managed to find the ONLY copy of a book in English, which was about him, his life and had some translations about his poetry. I finally got the book via a second hand shipment from the U.S after two months.
It wasn’t a surprise to see his work and understand his life. It was very similar to my own experiences. I’ve had similar ideas, which pushed me to make music in the first place. I instantly knew this album had to be about his message, through me, and not a story about me alone.
Sound Design Palette
In terms of music, I’ve always looked up to iconic producers who’ve defined the trends and invented new ones. A large breed of such producers come from the United Kingdom. The early rave scene, breakbeat, drum ‘n’ bass and stuff like that. Some of these guys were so good they even made chart topping underground music, which wasn't even a thing. This is what got me into the culture in the first place. I wanted that to be a “timeless” emotion in its intent and a tribute to my roots in a way.
I decided to go old school in every way using old techniques that producers used in the 2000’s. Mostly drum machines, synths, 303’s and a ton of sampling along with pads that bring it all together.
I intentionally kept everything outside the 4/4 house and techno domain. This kept things exciting for me and brought out the inner drummer in me. I used to be a rock / metal drummer in high school.
I also went to Paris to get this album mastered from my engineer - Charles Michaud. He mostly works on film scores and has a timeless approach to mastering which is something that’s become a part of my music making process over time. I think more “dynamic” mastering is critical to my music.
The album finally took shape over the span of a year and a half until I had all the tracks together.
Somehow they just seemed to fit into one narrative. I was also reading a lot about oneness and learnt a lot of very interesting things while producing the album which I wanted to add to it’s narrative. I used some of Akho’s translations to make his work understood in English and used them to explain the deeper emotion embedded within each of the tracks. All the tracks on the album are things that I’ve learnt with my own spiritual practice that lie outside the domain of any religion but are purely my own beliefs. I’ve put these ideas together with this album trying to share a state of mind, philosophies and as a tribute to “the golden era” of dance music.
The album is a result of deep exploration and intends to revive the spirit of Akho, a seventeenth century mystic poet born in Gujrat. A knower of deep transcendental mysteries that often puzzle the human mind. He speaks about “the being” as a thread, a part of the very fabric of creation that weaves the entire universe. The design of his work is at times quite intricate, trying to nudge the subject to inner awakening. His work urges the seeker of knowledge to explore the path of self-realization by understanding that there is only one, infinite, Supreme Being, who manifests inside all of us and everything around us.
A Poem For Each Chapter
An interpretation of a real story using fragments of my imagination, experiences, childhood memories, dreams, emotions and messages. I’ve translated these into ten chapters to explore.
1. Kohra - Jiva (Feat. Nirupama) | The Being
It's not often that one is born in human form,
once understood, you can pass through.
2. Kohra - Akarshan | The Concept of Gravity
Small measure is this body of ours,
big measure is the vast universe.
3. Kohra - Avakaza | The Spirit & Space
The spirit, much like space is beyond bondage or liberation.
It is the body which is a lifeless state.
4. Kohra - Indu | The Moon
A mystical illusion, crystalline white.
The shadow from the body can not part.
5. Kohra - Ananta Tarapatha | An endless path of stars
The self and tiny stars, get attached to whatever they come across.
Such is the universe, conducting its business haphazardly.
6. Kohra - Syama Antara | A Black Hole
A black hole marks the readiness for death.
One who is dead while alive, lives without fear.
7. Kohra - Antaryamin | The Inner Controller
The inner-self must go beyond now,
to a place no mind or body can reach.
8. Kohra - Kaal | The Essence of Time
Time is only as far as the sky.
You know the sky is a continuum, once you climb high.
9. Kohra - Dhyankendra | The Mind
One who thinks they are real keep circling in a cyclical path.
One whose identity is beyond the mind, is neither master nor servant.
10. Kohra - Akarshan (Reprise) | The Concept of Gravity 2
In an unbroken path of a bird’s flight,
there are no footprints. Still, the distance is cut.