On his new album Gamak, Mahanthappa takes off from Indian rhythms, but also the gamakas: the specific ways classical virtuosos tailor individual notes or move between them. They might attack a pitch from just above or below, or sweep upward as it trails off, or oscillate between notes. In these original tunes, as in traditional Indian music, those deviations are essential to the feeling and not mere decoration. Mahanthappa, who’s worked with Indian classical saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath, can get inside that authentic South Indian sound while turning it to his own ends.
Above, Mahanthappa’s Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music