July 16,2021

Episode 10

From healing mbira sounds out of Zimbabwe to sublime acoustic music from South Korea

Picture by Marta Witkowska

In Episode 10 of TSIR – an adventurous and inspiring global journey for music lovers, we celebrate healing mbira music from Zimbabwe and enjoy spiritual jazz from Pakistan. We also dive into otherworldy sounding saxophone music from Norway, get blown away by provocative, distressing club music from England and just drift away to sparse guitar music from the USA.

Featured Artist: Sunken Cages

Ravish Momin aka Sunken Cages is an Indian born musician now living in New York. He is a drummer, electronic music producer and educator. Ravish has an exceptional approach to his music, which he has been enhancing and extending over the last years. With his latest drum, percussion, computer set up he can trigger sounds, textures and rhythms live and manipulates and layers them above each other.

The result is a unique and exciting sound influenced by particular street sounds out of South Africa, Angola, or Egypt. However, he is also channelling musical inspiration from his own ancestors, and I see his music as a must-listen for anybody interested in experimental, rhythm-driven, electro-acoustic music.

He has just released his full-length debut solo album called "When the waters refused our history" on the great "On the corner" label. I got in touch with Ravish, and we put together an interview with lots of interesting information about his artistic view, inspiration, and first solo effort.

You have just released your first solo album under the Sunken Cages moniker. How does it feel to have this full-length solo album out there compared to your different collaborations, remix projects, where you work together with various artists? What is actually the most significant difference for you?

That’s a great question! The release of the album itself was delayed by about 8 months, actually. However, I’ve been brewing and developing a multi-dimensional solo project for over 5 years, so the delay seemed insignificant in the long run :)

I’ve led my own bands for 17 years now, gosh! I started out with an acoustic blend of instruments and innovated an ‘avant-global’ music in my band Tarana, featuring Oud and Violin at the outset. The music was a synthesis of improvised music, a scene I was heavily involved within New York City in the 2000s, and the folk music of my childhood growing up in India. Over time, personnel changed due to the nature of working with in-demand musicians in a highly competitive city, and I experimented with adding other instrumentalists. I should add that while I’ve always listened to a wide range of music, I began a deep-dive in electronic dance music about 5 years ago. 

I desired creating music that had all those influences blended together, and have been experimenting with all manner of electronic percussion and digital synths ever since. Working solo under “Sunken Cages” was in essence the culmination of my evolving musical practice. It’s significantly different from all of those other projects as I’m solely responsible for all the instrumentation, arrangement and production, and I find that liberating - having full musical control over the performance.

Sunken Cages - When The Waters Refused Our History Cover

As you are born in India, it would be interesting to know what influence India has on your artistic voice and how did your musical education work out?

Growing up in Mumbai, I listened to lots of Bollywood songs. I was also exposed to Western Pop and regional folk music. Moreover, one of my father’s close friends, master percussionist Arjun Shejwal, who played the pakhawaj (North Indian cylindrical drum), would come over and often recite “bols” - which are the vocal syllables associated with North Indian Classical music.  

I didn’t study music while I was in India. Much later, after completing my university education in the US (in Civil Engineering),  I began studying Jazz drumming with maestro Andrew Cyrille in New York City.  All those early musical influences which I’d subconsciously absorbed poured onto the drums, and I began playing a sort of hybrid drumming without even realizing it!  I’d say that even though my musical trees grows branches far and wide, they’re always rooted in those rhythms of my childhood.

Ravish Momin aka Sunken Cages (credit: Ed Marshall Photography NYC)

Is there any sort of concept or overall theme within your album or is it more like a collection of songs?

A theme of the 'consequences of climate change' permeates through most of the songs. I reflected on daily life and the rituals I experienced as a child growing up in Mumbai. I witnessed the ritual processions of taking the Ganesh statues out to sea as well as Sufi mystics chanting in frame-drum circles. Now, as the sea level and temperatures rise on account of climate change, the first to lose their homes and ways of life will be the poor.

What will a traditional ritual that took place for hundreds of years look like in the future landscape? Will we be able to use the land as we've always done? What was held in the cages that were sunken? The answers to those questions seem grim at this time. Yet, there's hope that if we can change old habits, find a way to break up power and come together to preserve our rituals and shared stories.

Sunken Cages Live Set Up (credit: Larisa Mann)

I have seen a couple of fascinating live drumming videos on your Instagram account and wondered whether you are planning to bring Sunken Cages on live stages and what it would look like. Of course, for us, it would be great to see you in Europe?

Glad you enjoyed those videos :) They’re just sketches or works-in-progress, which showcase different aspects of my live performance.  My first in-person concert will now take place at New York City’s prestigious Lincoln Center on July 30th. I’m definitely planning on getting on the road as soon as conditions become safer.

I’ve attached a picture of my set-up (above), which will be the same for touring purposes. As this project gains more momentum, my hope is to tour across Europe and the world! Even though I’ve toured Europe for the past 15 years in Jazz settings, it’ll be quite different as I’ll be working with electronic music venues/festivals this time around :)

Sunken Cages Live

Which artists are your most significant musical influences?

I do have a very broad musical palette, I’d hate to narrow it down to a “Top 10”, so I’ve placed a slightly more comprehensive list here, if anyone wants to sneak a peek!

Can you share with us three artists / albums that you listen to or that have inspired you lately?

At the moment, I’m still continually inspired by the work of Miles Davis (US), and newer artists Dengue Dengue Dengue (Peru) and DJ Lag (South Africa).

Ravish Momin solo (credit: Ed Marshall Photography NYC)