Mix the lonesome sounds of Mark O’Connor, the majestic sweeps of Alasdair Fraser, and the classical precision of Yehudi Menuhin, and you’re still be a few elements short of Nistha Raj. To reach Exit 1 you also need to transpose some of Wu Man’s pipa and Anoushka Shankar’s sitar for violin, add tabla, cello, guitar, bass, alto sax, harmonium, and piano, partner with human beatbox artist Christylez Bacon, and filter everything through Hindustani traditions.
Raj spent most of her youth in Houston and is classically trained in both Western and Hindustani violin, but her debut album has echoes of Appalachia (“Shivranjnai”), innovative jazz (“Jayanthi”), Balkan music (“Adje Jano”), and a Tibetan, Chinese, Hindustani masala (“From China to India”).
And just when you think she’s overcome by wanderlust, Raj bends violin notes to emulate the sitar and muse upon traditional alaps and ragas (“Gravity” and “Alibi”). She even plays her instrument while sitting cross-legged on the floor. Expected only the unexpected.•