Taking a Psychedelic Trip

Shamik's Gaali reviewed
By Sam Dharmasena

Gaali
Music by Shamik
Video directed and animated by Prithi Khalique.

 
Still from Gaali
Still from Gaali. Music by Shamik. Video directed and animated by Prithi Khalique.

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In Shamik’s latest release Gaali, the Vancouver-based producer and beat boxer revisits his mother tongue and pairs the sounds of his heritage with lush, electronic beats. Shamik chops up Indian samples often, in fact he has put out three projects already in his Channeling India series, but Gaali feels more intimate than his earlier work. In a recent Zoom video call, Shamik explains that many of his earlier releases sampled Hindi and Tamil tracks so this time he wanted to introduce listeners to Kannada and carve out some space for his own South Indian identity. He adds that this direction was also important because Canadians tend to perceive the South Asian community as synonymous with North India. He thinks this happens because of the country’s large Punjabi population coupled with the fact that mainstream perceptions of any community are rarely as nuanced as they should be. For Shamik, Gaali was an opportunity to express himself while offering some much-needed Kannada language specific visibility, validation, and education.

“When I see people going wild on the dancefloor when the [Punjabi] hits come on, I don’t know some of them and so I just feel that South Indian representation is missing at times for myself and others... I just wanted to do something different and I’m trying to look for more Kannada music for future productions,” he explains.

Normally Shamik travels to India for samples but border closures in response to the pandemic meant that he went digging online this time. He explains that many of his earlier samples pull from popular Indian languages because those records were more accessible during his travels. But with more high-quality audio finding its way online, he was able to find a film sample that was closer to home. Shamik's interpretation of these vocals, informed by a summer of social isolation, gives it a psychedelic, futuristic and uplifting feel. The accompanying music video builds onto this with direction and animations from New York-based Prithi Khalique.

Still from Gaali
Still from Gaali. Music by Shamik. Video directed and animated by Prithi Khalique.

Gaali is also distinct from Shamik’s past work because it is undeniably psychedelic. Like anything with a trippy element, it's incredibly dynamic. There’s a calm, meditative start and a more intensified second half that’s reminiscent of Chicago Footwork and the UK’s Asian Underground scene. Shamik says that the energy coming off Gaali reflects the summer he has had. He says one of the challenges with making Gaali was that he would work on it, put it away, and then pick it up when he was in a completely different headspace. Like many of us, the ongoing pandemic and social uprisings have led to a mix of exhaustion, excitement, and introspection. Gaali is the product of all these emotions but the fragmented creative process feels more like a strength than a hindrance to the project. The track is cohesive without feeling redundant. You can sense the conflicted emotions in the song, but it feels like the appropriate soundtrack for this moment in time.

Much like the track, the music video for Gaali takes you to another world that mixes the new with the old. It starts and ends with Shamik in his room alone, and there are a mesmerizing combination of visuals happening in between. The middle is a mix of colourful, animated scenes of animals, traditional masks, roller coaster tracks and more. At a time when the internet is overwhelmed with visuals and releases, Gaali can keep your attention.

Still from Gaali
Still from Gaali. Music by Shamik. Video directed and animated by Prithi Khalique.

While this is her first music video, Prithi is known for her abstract short films that are anchored in South Asian aesthetics. Shamik says that he gave Prithi free reign with the project but hoped she would bring her signature style and keep some elements of short films, such as opening credits. In the end, her contributions to Gaali add to the escapism of the piece, which is exactly what many of us are gravitating towards lately.

“There’s no shortage of music coming out, no shortage of content right now. Whether its people putting visuals behind their livestream, on a green screen, whether its music videos”, says Shamik. “For me, I asked myself what do I want? And I wanted something visually stimulating”.

Between Shamik’s intentions of sampling Kannada and Prithi’s signature style stemming from her Bangladeshi heritage, this project feels deeply personal and relatable. Their work compliments each other in a way that takes this from a single or music video release and turns it into an immersive experience for the audience. The boldness, experimentation, and collaboration feel effortless. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of many Shamik-Prithi Khalique joint efforts.

 
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Stills from Gaali. Music by Shamik. Video directed and animated by Prithi Khalique.
 
Sam Dharmasena, Sam Dharmasena, also known as Roshanie, is a Brampton-based DJ, writer and radio host. Her song selections are nostalgic, global and her unwavering commitment to community is at the core of everything she does.
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Prithi Khalique holds a BFA in communication design from Parsons School of Design. She is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and New York. She enjoys making projects that use color, 3D, and both still and moving images. In her personal work, she observes past and current issues around sexuality, objection, and systematic oppression to consider alternative models of femininity and power. Her vocabulary draws from surrealism and South-Asian pictorial forms and connects them with contemporary visual languages of speculative fiction and CGI.
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Shamik is a Vancouver-based South Asian producer and beatboxer. He has performed in 15 countries, and toured with Method Man & Redman, Tanya Tagaq, DJ Q-Bert, and DJ Kentaro. He has opened for Flying Lotus, George Benson, Dam Funk, Kool Herc, The Glitch Mob, Dub FX, and Excision.
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