2016 was a very busy year for legendary Swedish drummer Bengt «Beche» Berger’s group Beches Brew. In January 2016 the Big version of Beches Brew toured India and performed in the cities of Chennai, Mumbai and Pune, where it was joined by eminent Indian masters of the Karnatic and the Hindustani traditions. In October 2016 few of these masters – vocal and violin maestros Akkarai Sisters plus virtuoso percussionists K.U. Jayachandra Rao and B. Shree Sundarkumar together with Ghanaian master percussionist Doe Kushiator, joined the Scandinavian leg of this project and all toured in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. «Beches Indian Brew» was recorded during this tour.
Berger, who has studied playing the Indian tabla and mridangam percussion instruments since 1965 and has collaborated throughout the years with many Indian masters, wrote all the music for this expanded ensemble. «Beches Indian Brew» suggests a colorful vision of East meets West or, if referring to Bengt’s label Country & Eastern, a Nordic Country music meets Traditional Eastern legacies. Berger’s compositions by no means reflect the American Country & Western, but his music is folk music. It is music of all folks, from different corners and cultures of the world, crossroads of jazz, Swedish folk, classical Indian music and traditional West-African music, often arranged in humorist unpretentious dresses, still, well-versed with these magnificent and ancient musical traditions. Anyone can feel at home immediately with this swinging brew of innocence and optimism.
Bengt compositions leave enough room for playful improvisations that highlight the individual, expressive voices of the 14 musicians involved in this project. The opening piece, for example, «Kakraba High Five» with the Akkarai Sisters brings to mind the collaboration of American sax player Charlie Mariano with the Indian Karnataka College of Percussion and vocalist R.A. Ramamani, but in a relaxed swinging-funky version. «Kamelen» sound like an Indian blues where the snaky lines of the violins of the Akkarai Sisters are intertwined with the saxophone choir of Jonas Knutsson, Thomas Gustafsson and Sir Thomas Jäderlund. «Dagar.Djur» is Bengt beautiful arrangement of the Karnatic Raga Shanmukhapriya, now arranged for the Akkarai Sisters, Knutsson and Max Schultz, letting their voices to blend gently into each other.
«Congo Square» takes this ensemble to a breezy-shiny African detour. The medley «Doktor Apa/Magma/Vesuvio/Klingis Khan» sound as a sonic reflection of the dense and noisy urban experience of India, offering weird electronic soundscape of Lise-Lotte Norelius and emotional, lyrical violin solo of Livet Nord. This inspiring journey ends with the long-anticipated percussion celebration on «Edith», driven by fast, humorous rhythmic exchanges of Bengt, K.U. Jayachandra Rao and B. Shree Sundarkudmar , improvising on the Karnatic five beats rhythmic cycle, Khanda Chapu.
So far, this kind of open, compassionate music work as highly efficient antidote to the deeds of some malicious politicians in the West, East and the Middle East.
Akkarai Sisters (v, vio), K.U. Jayachandra Rao (mridangam), B. Shree Sundarkumar (kanjira), Doe Kushiator (dr), Livet Nord (vio), Lise-Lotte Norelius (perc, elec), Jonas Knutsson (s), Thomas Gustafsson (s), Sir Thomas Jäderlund (s, bcl), Max Schultz (g), Göran Klinghagen (g), Stefan Bellnäs (b), Bengt Berger (dr)