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Kush Arora

By Phil Freeman
Published March 13, 2007

Dub is the shadow, the ghostly echo that follows all music. Everything can be dubbed, because all forms cast shadows. Kush Arora, an Indian musician and producer from the San Francisco area, understands this. On his recent album Bhang Ragga: Dancehall Bhangra In Future Dub, he combines dancehall chanting with bhangra melodies and traditional Indian instruments, atop a bed of thick, oozing bass and drifting drums. “My influences are Skinny Puppy, Sizzla, Bally Sagoo, Kuldeep Manak, Merzbow, Zakir Hussain, all the great dub and dancehall producers, and of course the Rootsman,” he says. “My biggest influences are the guys I make music with, however, and all the amazing people I connect with in the studio.”

< I>Bhang Ragga features multiple guest vocalists and instrumentalists, but unlike some other electronic musicians, Kush insists on live interaction with his collaborators. “If I've used the Internet, it’s been as a means to contact somebody I will meet in person, sooner rather than later. Online collaborations are great, but I have to meet the singers I’m working with—they are all amazing folks and command real life attention.”

Arora’s music has more to do with the psychedelic, dark dub of Bill Laswell and the WordSound collective than Jamaica, or the Indian music of his background, and to hear him tell it, it’s been a struggle to get either community to accept what he and his partners are doing. “Desis wake up! Dreads wake up!” he says. “Take charge of your culture and be proud to stretch it across borders and genres. Don't be scared, what’s the worst that could happen—somebody will laugh at you? You gonna lose some money on your release? What isn’t a loss, boss? Our music won’t grow until our own people actually start doing it and presenting it to Indian and Carribean audiences at their own cultural events.”