Flash Review: Trina Basu & Arun Ramamurthy 'Nakshatra' Album Release

By Jane Lai

Monday, April 10, 2023

The other night, I was fortunate to celebrate the release of Nakshatra (Spinster Records), the debut album by Brooklyn-based violinists Trina Basu and Arun Ramamurthy. Nakshatra, a Sanskrit word “evocative of the celestial realm,” set a scene for a collection of immersive arrangements and storytelling through song and vibration.

Photo by Jill Steinberg

Nakshatra is a work of seven fruitful years, however, Basu and Ramamurthy’s connection stems from when they first met 15 years ago. They connected immediately, both musically and personally. Their music is an amalgamation of years spent together, culturally influenced by South Indian classical, western chamber, jazz, folk, and century-old pieces.

Photo by Jill Steinberg

The duo kicked off with “Offering.” The piece was a tribute to Prospect Park whose nature was a sanctuary offering consistency at the onset of the pandemic when nothing else made sense. Together, Basu and Ramamurthy maneuvered like two needles making a sweater. Both pieces are equally needed for balance and propelling movement. In trust, they reviewed each other to stay grounded, pace, trade affections, and unfold their landscapes. In another tribute song, “Healer,” the duo dedicated it to Elijah McClain, an incredible violinist and massage therapist who had his life taken too early by police violence.

"With two distinct sensibilities, the duo invented a musical language. Two violins floated in perfect tandem, diligently capturing a massive net of sound and pause."

Basu and Ramamurthy invited Dan Kurfirst for the last few songs. A sensitive percussionist, his shells, mallets, brushes, and his palms complemented songs in a light dress, like lemon zest. Kurfist was malleable and unlocked through and beyond layers of subtle texture. And when the audience whispered a mildly audible ‘hmm’ under a breath, smiles in sight, it was perhaps the most venerated seal of approval. It was a subconscious nod toward what they were impressed by, and the closest peek we could get into someone else’s thoughts.

Photo by Jill Steinberg

With two distinct sensibilities, the duo invented a musical language. Two violins floated in perfect tandem, diligently capturing a massive net of sound and pause. Mingling between millions of detailed conversations, each arco or pizzicato was like bugs crawling, mapping their way through the nooks and crannies of puzzle pieces. At times, Ramamurthy sat with one leg propped up. Projected in the backdrop, artist Nitin Mukul’s lush ice-melting landscapes hung. Liquids fell from all directions, reshaping themselves in unadulterated, remote freedom.

Photo by Jill Steinberg

But the one thing I noticed the most all night was how Basu and Ramamurthy were in sync whenever each stopped to tune. They had a gentle, intuitive transaction between them—a connection so strong, like finishing each other’s sentences without interrupting. It felt as if they were buying gifts on the occasion of thought rather than an actual occasion. The first, well, often makes for a better gift anyways.

About Jane Lai

Jane is a community-oriented musician and collaborator based in Brooklyn, NY (who occasionally dabbles in writing).