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Volume 90, Issue 85
Thursday, March 06, 1997
K shakes sounds and spirituality
Gazette file photo
JUST MELLOWING OUT IN SOME KOOL SHADES. Kula Shaker stands in waiting for the next step. Is it the L or maybe the X? How about a Q?
By Jonathan Hale
Most bands, after attaining a considerable level of fame, credit certain people who helped or guided the act in the right direction. Then there's Kula Shaker, which has instead put its beliefs and happiness in the 11th letter in the alphabet. Rather magikal, don't you think?
Kula Shaker released its widely successful album, quaintly titled K, with several images related to the letter on the cover a cover which opened to give a CD full of the band's retro grooves, fitted nicely between a Manchester-esque sound with a touch of Indian flavouring to make it all go down easily. But before even asking about inspirations, aspirations and why the band decided to get together, people need to know: Why is K so important to these four British lads?
"My cousin was into numerology and he was the first singer originally," begins lead singer Crispian Mills at a press conference in Toronto. "It was about three years ago and he was saying, 'K stands for all things magical and 11 is the magical number and a lot of people spell magic with the letter K.' It was all things mystical and invisible, k represents."
"It was just a lot of things we were influenced by, a lot of things in the lyrics and things in our kind of Kula Shaker folklore, like Knights of the Round Table or Kennedy or Krishna or all these things coming together."
"And Kermit the Frog," jokes keyboardist Jay Darlington.
"Or Kermit the Frog," continues Mills with a smile. "Kermit's lawyer wouldn't let us put him on the album cover."
Kermit's lawyer obviously didn't realize what an opportunity he was passing up. Upon the release of K, Kula Shaker went from the indie rock scene to becoming Oasis' replacement as the band whose music could be heard everywhere in Britain. But Kula Shaker's originality is not only in the musical stylings that seem to collaborate various instruments into one electrifying sound, but also in the language the band uses on certain songs.
"'Tattva' is in Sanscrit," Mills quips. "Well not all of it, but just the bit that no one can pronounce. And that's not so much a language, but it's a strange kind of scripture language. They used to say that Sanscrit meant the language of the gods and that on the vaders and all those ancient books they say that in the spiritual world, everyone speaks Sanscrit. I thought 'Let's put it in a pop tune, that would be good.'"
"'Govinda' is a very old, Hindi folk song that I heard and I just started singing it with the band when I got back from India and it just worked. People really liked it and thought that it had a magical vibe to it."
These songs, along with "Hey Dude" have seen the band reaching a moderate level of success in North America, with a fair amount of hype following Kula Shaker across the ocean on its tours. The band does not credit the hype as the source of interest on this side of the pond.
"I think we are slightly more American sounding than bands [like Blur or Oasis]," explains drummer Paul Winterhart, "But rather less American sounding than Bush or Spacehog, so it's a bit balanced. We've got a bit of Brit, a bit of west coast, a bit of Indian, so it's got all these different aspects."
But Kula Shaker has not had a completely easy road to the top, thanks to the critics. The band has been jeered for exploiting the Indian language and songs and for being a little bit odd the foursome's very open beliefs demand an inward search into one's soul more so than anything learned by books or friends.
"[Spiritual beliefs] seem to be more shocking than [anything else] in interviews," Darlington notes. "It's less shocking to talk about you being a homosexual drug addict than it is to be into something spiritual for some strange reason."
With powerful, retrospective music and lyrics of hope and good fortune, one shouldn't bother with anal critics who can't handle the fact that Kula Shaker is different, enlightening and really quite O-K.
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