I remember the first time I heard Somesh Mathur like it happened yesterday. It was one of my quarterly visits to Scot Hull, back in 2018, a familiar six-hour drive from Rochester NY to Frederick MD. As usual, I brought along a handful of CDs from the review pile, maybe twenty in all, and the first CD I put in was Somesh’s Time Stood Still. The first song was “Nectar,” and it was outrageously and immediately full of absolute good, a mix of fusion jazz, prog rock and Indian folk music that was propelled by one of the greatest drumming performances–from one Gergo Borlai–I’ve heard in a long time.
I played that song over and over. Then I started listening to the rest of the songs. Each song was different from the last one, ranging from the more spiritual to the more grounded in psychedelic rock to the more crazy and whimsical “sweet beats,” which also happens to be the name of Somesh Mathur’s record label. Sometimes Somesh Mathur sings in English, and sometimes he doesn’t, but that rich and emotional voice makes the language barrier a moot point. I tried to listen to the other CDs I’d brought. I’d listen to a few tracks, and then I’d think “I need to hear ‘Nectar’ just one more time.”
Sometimes, it was three or four more times.
Since then, Somesh Mathur checks in with me once in a while on social media. He was so grateful for my extremely positive review of Time Stood Still, and secretly I’ve been waiting for the news that the next album is on its way. Last week, Somesh gave me that news.
The first thing I noticed about the new album from Somesh Mathur, A Promise Broken, is that there is no Gergo. Honestly, that was the first thing I checked–that guy needs to play at all my parties from now on. But that’s perfectly fine, because the mood here is more somber and shows that Somesh Mathur can be serious and thoughtful and–here’s that word again–spiritual. A Promise Broken has a theme, and that’s remembering those who we lost during the pandemic. That’s the reason for the change of mood.
The seven original songs on A Broken Promise (five radio edits are also included), aside from the memorable voice of Somesh Mathur, are very different than the ones on the last album–the song structures are more cohesive here, as opposed to the sanguine jams on Time Stood Still. Somesh relies more on electronica than before and that injects a more modern feel into the recording–less fusion and more atmosphere. The sound quality has improved as well–Sweet Beats knew the wisdom of expanding these intimate songs into quiet epics, full of the tiniest of details and an intriguing smattering of sounds here and there.
But the real reason to introduce yourself to Somesh Mathur is to sit back, relax and listen to his philosophy. First, he’s at the forefront of a new global music genre named bhaarat (stylized in the liner notes as BHAARAT®), which uses Indian classical music as a foundation for exploring multiple genres of Western music. He’s making music that sounds like it comes from a place the rest of the world hasn’t discovered yet. Second, his is a message of love, understanding and hope, which is undoubtedly what the world needs now.