India meets Indiana: a Musical Connection

“India is…it’s beautiful, and it’s fascinating, and it’s old. It’s a really old culture. In the United States we’re so young — I was fascinated by the differences and delighted by the differences, but at the same time I was powerfully, powerfully moved by the the thread that pulls across, what’s recognized from culture to culture,” says musician Carrie Newcomer.

“What I was finding was if you sing about hope –as with the song I have called If Not Now, which I sang all over India and people sang with me — hope is recognized, if you sing about the unstoppable quality of hope, that is recognized,” she continues. “I have a song called Geodes, which is about Indiana rocks,” she added. “It’s also about finding the shining heart of things. That was a thread that pulled through, too.”

Newcomer is based in Indiana, and though she tours across the United States and internationally, she had never been to India and a trip there wasn’t on her radar as she was finishing up recording her twelfth solo album Before & After and booking tour dates across the US in support of it. Then a call came: a family friend, who worked at an international school in New Delhi, recalled Newcomer’s work across faith communities with her music and invited her to come for several days as an artist in residence for a program his school was planning on peace and justice. People involved in cultural outreach at the American Embassy in India, learned of her visit and started talking with her about taking part in their programs. The result was a month of intense touring, visiting community groups, schools, and giving concerts, “and they sent me all over the place,” she says. She spent time in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and many other places.

Such an intense schedule didn’t leave much free time, but Newcomer made a point of connecting with local musicians and playing with them, and inviting them to play with her, when she could. One afternoon she was able to swap music with sarod master Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, who are also accomplished musicians. As Newcomer returned to the States and began to see how her time in India would play out in her songwriting, the idea for collaboration arose. The result is Newcomer’s album Everything is Everywhere.

Though it might at first sound unlikely, this connection between India and Carrie Newcomer Everything Is Everywhere cover Indiana proves a natural fit. Newcomer’s gift for illuminating the sacred in the day to day finds her, in the title track, moving from lentils and hot spiced tea in India to corn and beans in Indiana, pulled through with the threads of sorrow, hope, compassion, and connection — connection that is underscored as her vibrant alto voice is framed in music from the Khans’ sarods along with percussion and piano from Indiana musical friends JIm Brock and Gary Walters.

Everything is Everywhere is a gathering of song which may not be quite like anything you’ve heard before. It fits, though, with both Newcomer’s work as a writer and singer of thoughtful songs which ask good questions and the Khans’ mastery of the sounds of the sarod. There are songs of peace, songs of questioning, songs of change, and through it all songs of connection. Everything is Everywhere is thoughtful, creative music done with spirit and heart, arising out of true connection among musicians.

Newcomer has decided to give proceeds from Everything Is Everywhere to the Interfaith Hunger Initiative, a program which works to end childhood hunger in Indiana and overseas.

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