Amirtha Kidambi: Elder Ones

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 @ 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Free RSVP 2019-03-26 7 p.m. 2019-03-26 9 p.m. America/New_York Amirtha Kidambi: Elder Ones 40 W. North Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15212 Alphabet City

Join us for a concert with Elder Ones featuring lead vocalist Amirtha Kidambi.


As Ben Ratliff wrote in the New York Times, “the aggressive and sublime first album by the band Elder Ones, Holy Science, is a kind of gauge for how strong and flexible the scene of young musicians in New York’s improvised and experimental music world can be.” Seth Colter Walls writes in Pitchfork, “This sound isn’t merely the product of well-chosen reference points; in its abstract way, it makes a unique argument for the virtue of cross-cultural curiosity. Appropriately, the nature of this music is constantly morphing. When a muted introduction gives way to a more celebratory aesthetic, the change is achieved gradually, through small changes in the arrangement. When a demonstration of rage reaches a peak that cannot be sustained, the musicians in Elder Ones are able to navigate back to a more stable feel, without losing the passion and awareness that has animated those foregoing blasts of harshness. The result is an astonishing debut for a composer, and her band.”

Kidambi formally trained in classical music, singing works by avant-gardists including Nono and Stockhausen, but the pull of free jazz and Alice Coltrane drew her toward a different path. The influence of both Alice and John Coltrane is especially apparent on Holy Science, as is her work with composer and saxophonist Darius Jones, and her study of Carnatic music.

The forthcoming release From Untruth builds upon the bedrock foundation of Kidambi’s previous compositional and conceptual work with Elder Ones, while forging uncharted territory. After a journey into wordless abstraction on Holy Science, Kidambi felt the urgency of the political moment required a direct and verbal call to action. The lyric fragments in “Eat the Rich”, “Decolonize the Mind”, “Dance of the Subaltern” and “From Untruth” critique power structures of capitalism, racism, colonialism and fascism, distilling heavy post-colonial theory into concentrated visceral battle cries. The instrumentation adds a layer of technology as a metaphor for modernity, with Kidambi on analog synthesizer and Max Jaffe’s drumming talents extended to electronic Sensory Percussion. The frenzied improvising of Matt Nelson on soprano sax and gravity of Nick Dunston on bass, anchor the music in the tradition of free jazz, while it pushes into new futurist realms. The aesthetic seamlessly reels from modal meditation, atonal expressionism, free improvisation and melodic invention, to unabashed bursts of punk rock energy. This is Elder Ones at an unadulterated breaking point; on the edge of a knife that cuts.


Featured Musicians:

Amirtha Kidambi (Vocals, Harmonium, Synthesizer, Compositions)
Matt Nelson (Soprano Saxophone)
Nick Dunston (Bass)
Max Jaffe (Drums and Electronic Sensory Percussion)


Amirtha Kidambi is invested in the creation and performance of subversive music, from free improvisation and avant-jazz, to experimental bands and new music. As a bandleader, she is the creative force behind Elder Ones, featuring rising New York stars Matt Nelson (Battle Trance/GRID) on soprano saxophone, Nick Dunston (Tyshawn Sorey Trio/Jeff “Tain” Watts) on bass and Max Jaffe (JOBS/Peter Evans’ Being and Becoming) on drums and electronic sensory percussion. The purposeful compositions are spiritually ecstatic and politically charged, influenced by her native South Indian Carnatic music, Alice Coltrane and free jazz, classical modernism, harsh noise, metal and punk. Rooted in harmonium (Indian pump organ) and synthesizer lines and drones, Kidambi draws a line from the ancient to the modern in her eclectic band. Elder Ones’ debut album Holy Science released in 2016 on Northern Spy Records, drew critical praise internationally from such publications as the New York Times, Pitchfork, Wire Magazine, Jazzwise and Music Magazine Japan. Kidambi will premiere her composition Lines of Light in 2018 inspired by Muhal Richard Abrams and Hildegard von Bingen, with an improvising vocal quintet for Emilie Lesbros (Darius Jones Quartet), Jean-Carla Rodea (Cecilia Lopez), Anais Maviel (William Parker) and Charmaine Lee (Nate Wooley duo).

Kidambi is a key collaborator in Mary Halvorson’s latest quintet Code Girl, duo with Darius Jones and his groups Elizabeth-Caroline Unit and Samesoul Maker, Maria Grand’s DiaTribe, duo with electronic musician Lea Bertucci,various groups with the legendary William Parker, Charlie Looker’s experimental folk band Seaven Teares and Pat Spadine’s new music ensemble Ashcan Orchestra. As an improviser, she has played with New York luminaries including Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey, Ingrid Laubrock, Ava Mendoza, Fay Victor, Peter Evans, Ben Vida, Tyondai Braxton and Shahzad Ismaily. Kidambi worked closely with composer Robert Ashley until the end of his life, premiering his final opera CRASH and had the honor of working with Muhal Richard Abrams for the premiere of Dialogue Social. She has performed nationally and internationally in Europe and Asia, with Elder Ones and in collaborative formations for the Whitney Biennial, Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival, Berliner Festspiele (Germany), Festival Jazz Jantar (Poland), Borderline Festival (Greece), Bimhuis (Amsterdam) and Music Unlimited (Austria). She has received commissions, awards and residencies from the Jerome Foundation, Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) and the Asian Cultural Council, studying Carnatic music in South India in 2017. She has recorded with visionary artists Mary Halvorson, William Parker, Kassa Overall, Ingrid Laubrock, Catherine Christer Hennix and others.

Event Details

March 26, 2019 @ 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
40 W. North Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15212

Newsletter Signup