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Think jazz music, some pop influences, a full serving of electronica, Indian percussion, Persian strings and trip-hop beats and you have the makings for a great music festival, however all of what we have just described, you can experience within the context of one ensemble known as Lal Meri. The group’s core members consist of vocalist Nancy Kaye, who performed under the jazz pseudonym of Rosey and also had a pop music career, keyboardist Carmen Rizzo, whose skills as a composer, arranger and producer, with artists like Azam Ali and the group NIYAZ have been critically acclaimed, and the third member, Ireesh Lal, a superb songwriter, who has also played trumpet, alongside some of the America’s best jazz artists. Lal Meri has been attracting a lot of attention with their debut, self titled CD that is not due to just novel curiosity on the part of listeners, but because songs such as, “Dreams Of 18,” are beautifully orchestrated, showcase Nancy Kaye’s dreamy, seductive vocals, and demonstrate Ireesh Lal and Carmen Rizzo’s creativity, as they weave lavish tapestries, that incorporate Satnman Ramgorta’s tabla and Dimitri Mahlis’ musicianship with Persian instruments such as the oud, saz, jumbush and the Greek bouzouki.

As Lal Meri continues to revolutionize music as we know it, the question was posed to Ireesh Lal  Carmen Rizzo and Nancy Kaye as to whether a group like theirs which fuses together all these different musical elements could have existed, and been accepted, as recently as ten years ago. 

“I think there were plenty of bands like our band, mixing instrumentation and styles. It is just that it wasn’t getting noticed. With technology, you can reproduce these instruments in a way that you don’t really know if it is real or not. Because it is so easy (now), it is more common,” says Rizzo.

Ireesh joins in the conversation, “Ten years ago I heard of DJs who would mix sounds and styles, but as far as mixing world music and electronic music, while doing it with authentic instruments, and not just samples here and there, I can’t think of too many bands that have done it.”

“I remember that I did a world music radio show in college in the mid nineties, and there were definitely a lot of American artists who were going over to India, Africa and Brazil, and they were mixing (styles), but I don’t remember music as specific as ours (existing) before. There is definitely an evolution of people delving into those worlds,” says Kaye.

Rizzo says, “Unfortunately, there have been a lot of really bad acts out there, who mix electronic with world music, and some horrible cheesy beat with some sample of a woman in a jungle, yelling and screaming (at this point Ireesh and Nancy dissolve into laughter). (They combine that) with some world beat and they think it is the best thing since sliced bread. There have been many records like this, and that has ruined it for people like us or other good bands, who actually write songs, and who make music in an original form. For a long time it (the music) was not accepted and it was one of those deep forests. Hopefully people will learn how to write songs (for this type of music).”

The reason that I am with these guys, is I know they all have something excellent to bring. As much as I try to get away from my cookie choruses and my cookie lyrics, I can’t help it. It is just in my nature that I want to write something which people can sing along to. Here we are with songs in an odd kind of style, and not the usual drone that you get out of other world music,” says Kaye. 

The seeds for Lal Meri were first sown, when Kaye contacted Ireesh Lal through his myspace website, after listening to one of his tracks, a fusion of his cousin Pooja Lal singing, set to some trip-hop beats that Ireesh Lal wrote upon his return to America. Kaye, then recording under the name of Rosey was finishing up her jazz album, and she was looking for a new and different project to dive into. She contacted Lal, with whom she started writing, and eventually through a friend was introduced to Carmen Rizzo. When Rizzo heard a demo prepared by Lal and Kaye, he was blown away by their concept and sound, and he wanted to join them in their musical endeavors.  

Rizzo reflects upon the group’s vision, “We weren’t really interested in doing music that we had previously done before. Rosey had a very interesting sound with her other projects, as did Ireesh and I. When the three of us started to do this together, we were trying to come up with something that was new. I think that is why our record shines as it does, because we have three different influences, and it is a really nice melting pot.”    Read more