Show Preview Interview – BlackMahal, Concert of Colors Sat. June 14
The Concert of Colors Festival this weekend in Detroit is all about offering something different than the average festival fare. The bands will range from jazz to funk to hip hop and everything in between. On Saturday afternoon, BlackMahal, a San Francisco-based live music experience will perform. Their music is a mesh of drums, DJs, hip-hop MC’s and the godfather of Punjabi-American music – Ustad Lal Sing Bhatti.
I spoke to Jon Cook, drummer of BlackMahal, about the upcoming festival and how their eclectic sound came together.
MCB: Can you describe BlackMahal and how you came together?
JC: We are a Punjabi-hip-hop-funk experience and what that means is we were inspired by Vijay Chatta who is one of the MC’s of the band and when he started out DJing, he was mixing old-style hip hop with Panjubi beats. I got involved because I share the same taste in music.
MCB: To say it’s an eclectic is almost an understatement….
JC: Thank you for saying that. It’s sort of a smorgasbord of everything.
MCB: Tell me more about your illustrious member Ustad Lai Sing Bhatti
JC: Ustad is a dohl drummer from India and grew up in a musical family. He loved to sing but he was a natural for the dohl drum. A dohl drum is a drum worn around the neck and has 2 drum heads on it. They sound kind of like a bass on one side and a snare on the other. He became very accomplished in India and travelled all over the world. He has played for five US Presidents. He’s a maestro on the dohl drum.
MCB: Are you all located in one area?
JC: We are all based in the San Francisco Bay area. Some of us live in the city and some live across the bay.
MCB: Do you consider yourself more of a live performance band than a studio band?
JC: We’re sort a combination of both. The way I look at it, when we’re in in the studio we try to have an almost “un-live” quality. We want to be played by DJs, so it’s a bit more mashed up.
But, you really don’t get the full experience unless you see us live. We have Tim Chang who plays bass and Panchua Chang sings, a DJ named J Slim who was in the movie Scratch. We have a horn section and a keyboardist. I play a drum set. We play whatever we’re feeling at the moment.
MCB: How does a BlackMahal track get developed?
JC: Vijay will come up with a hook, it may come from an old Bollywood track or an old sample. I’ll play a beat that goes with the sample and we work with our producer to go from there and bring in the other members of the band. Then sometimes we’ll jam on a riff in the studio and our MC will freestyle to it.
MCB: Are you excited to play at Concert of Colors?
JC: I’m very excited, to see George Clinton and Parliament. Don Was playing with the Detroit Allstars and I’m very interested in seeing the city, walking around and checking out the sights. Detroit is a music city.
BlackMahal performs Saturday at 7pm on the Comerica Diversity Stage. If you are going be sure to get their ep that is only available at their shows.
This Post by Mikel O.D. of