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Letting loose

Sitarist-vocalist Ami Dang moves from head trips to hybrid pop

After a semester spent in New Delhi during college and a subsequent trip to India, she had a new sitar and a vocal instructor who had refined her techniques. Dang wanted to explore what would become her sound. "At that time it really was just, let me play with things and see what happens," she says. "And at the time I was mostly singing more classically, hymns and other Hindustani classical forms, or just syllables inspired by Hindustani classical music. And so sometimes I would write a line out and decide on the hymn I wanted to experiment with. Also, with sitar I might experiment within a raga."

In the spring of 2009, though, she started writing actual songs, which turned a corner for her musically. "Now I approach things differently," she says. "The music I was making was more ambient, more noise – it was more jams and not songs. I'm still interested in doing the long-form stuff. I'm especially interested in the dynamics between the various forms and presenting people with music that is all those forms because people don't expect that at all.

"But with the songs, it was just so different," she continues. "It was really liberating for me. And I just love to dance. And I want to share that energy with the crowd."

She wants to continue sharing that energy, and expand it, in fact. She says she's been working on a project with Teeth Mountain's Kate Levitt, and the idea of a tribal krautrock stomp behind Dang's sitar and vocals tickles the ears. And Dang wouldn't mind getting to the point where her solo project expands to an ensemble of some sort.

"What I am really looking forward to doing sometime in the next year is getting dancers into my set," Dang says. "But that's another thing I want to work toward so that when I can tour with other people – well, first of all, be confident that I can pay them. It'll take a little time to get there, but one step at a time."

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