In this RTV episode, Amirtha Kidambi discusses her developing artistic practice, methods for working with her quartet, and the important role that communication plays in art.
An evening of works in progress for Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones, the group that continues to provoke and instigate change to the status quo through incendiary and visceral music. Reflecting on the deep systemic inequities further revealed and exacerbated by the pandemic, Kidambi explores themes of racial inequity, disaster capitalism, the decay of American infrastructure, policing, a growing white supremacist insurgency and a rising tide of racial hatred against immigrants, Black and Brown people and Asian Americans.
Amirtha Kidambi: voice, synthesizer, harmonium, electronics
Matt Nelson: soprano saxophone, electronics
Max Jaffe: drums, Sensory Percussion
Eva Lawitts: bass, electronics
Performance date: 06/22/2015
Episode release date: 09/19/2018
Composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones, critiques power structures of capitalism, racism, colonialism and fascism, distilling heavy post-colonial theory into concentrated visceral battle cries. The instrumentation’s technological layer acts as a metaphor for modernity, with Kidambi on analog synthesizer and Max Jaffe’s drumming talents extended to electronic Sensory Percussion. The frenzied improvising of Matt Nelson on soprano sax and gravity of Eva Lawitts on bass and electronics, anchor the music in the tradition of free jazz, while pushing into new futurist realms. The aesthetic seamlessly reels from modal meditation, atonal expressionism, free improvisation and melodic invention, to unabashed bursts of punk rock energy.
Amirtha Kidambi is invested in the creation and performance of subversive music, from free improvisation and avant-jazz, to experimental bands and new music. She is a composer, vocalist, educator, activist and organizer, informed by anti-racism, decolonization and anti-capitalism. As a bandleader, she is the creative force behind Elder Ones and has received critical praise from the New York Times, Pitchfork, Downbeat and WIRE magazine. Kidambi topped the categories of “Rising Star Vocalist”, “Rising Star Composer” and “Rising Star Jazz Group” in the Downbeat Critics Poll for 2019. She is active in an improvising duo with electronic musician Lea Bertucci, in a kinetic interaction with reel-to-reel tape machine two albums on Astral Spirits. Kidambi is a key collaborator in Mary Halvorson’s latest sextet Code Girl, the duo Angels & Demons with Darius Jones and in various collaborations with William Parker and has worked with Muhal Richard Abrams and Robert Ashley. She has performed and presented her music in the U.S. and internationally at Carnegie Hall, The Kitchen, Whitney Museum, EMPAC, Berlin Jazzfest and various DIY/punk spaces. Kidambi has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, Asian Cultural Council and artist residencies at EMPAC, Roulette, Pioneer Works and Bucareli 69 in Mexico City. She has taught and been engaged in decolonizing curriculum at CUNY Brooklyn College and The New School.