Ali Sethi is working with Narcos producer Noah Georgeson
This is turning out to be a momentous year for Ali Sethi. Still basking in the success of Coke Studio’s ‘Tinak Dhin’, everybody’s favorite Harvard-grad-turned-ghazal-singer has just revealed plans to collaborate with award-winning record producer Noah Georgeson.
An MFA in classical music and winner of three Grammies, Georgeson has produced and mixed records for major indie acts like Devendra Barnhart, Joanna Newsom, The Strokes and Charlotte Gainsbourg. He also created the title track for the popular Netflix TV show Narcos.
“I’ve admired Noah’s work for years,” said Sethi. “And I’m thrilled to be working with him.” Stressing the need for new ideas in traditional music, Sethi elaborated: “I’ve always resisted this idea of tradition as a sealed thing. As someone who has engaged with the theory and practice of traditional music for many years, I’m eager to apply those principles to contemporary situations, hoping to capture what is going on in our world right now.”
Georgeson was just as forthcoming about the need for a fresh approach to World Music. “Most people come to me to make their music sound worse,” he wrote in an email, “but in interesting ways. To rough it up until some of the pristine digital-ness has been scrubbed away to reveal something familiar and human. Beyond my excitement in working with Ali, and his transcendent talent and voice, I’m looking forward to applying my approach to an unfamiliar tradition of music. Most often in recordings, non-western music is treated too reverently – like it is a painting in a museum, or an anthropological exhibit, which only serves to exoticize it, and separate the listener from the music and the musicians who make it. I want to work with Ali’s music as a living, vital, and passionate thing, and help make it feel familiar.”
While the two are keeping mum about the exact nature of their project, they have shared that it will consist of more than one album, and will involve input from Harvard’s well-known Islam scholar Ali Asani. “I’m looking forward to being a little radical here — a learned vandal, if you will! — with lyrics and melody and arrangement,” said Sethi. “I would like our music to feel both original and intelligible.”
Apart from signaling a leap in scope and attitude, the project adds to Sethi’s credentials as a cross-cultural musician, coming on the heels of his collaborations with Abida Parveen, Seraiki folk singer Jamaldin, the transatlantic hip-hop act Swet Shop Boys, and the Pulitzer-prize-winning composer Du Yun.