Photo by Kholood Eid

Photo by Kholood Eid

 

Amirtha Kidambi "takes a holistic approach to singing, which can mean treating every element as unfixed: Words can be opened up, rendered nonspecific. Melody can be repeated and frozen and stuck in place. Markings of rhythm can become utterly abstract, freed from cadence." (New York Times). Kidambi is the bandleader of Elder Ones and a soloist and collaborator in groups including Mary Halvorson's newest quintet Code Girl, Charlie Looker’s early music inspired dark folk band Seaven Teares, Darius Jones’ vocal quartet Elizabeth-Caroline Unit and Samesoul Maker and Pat Spadine's analog percussion and light ensemble Ashcan Orchestra. 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. At the center of it are drones and phonemes. The group’s leader, the composer and singer Amirtha Kidambi, holds forth behind a harmonium, the small keyboard instrument with hand-pumped bellows; it’s commonly used in bhajan, the Indian devotional-singing tradition that was central to her musical experience while growing up in a South Indian family.” Kidambi formally trained in classical music, singing works by experimental composers including Robert Ashley and Luigi Nono, 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 the , as is her work with composer and saxophonist Darius Jones, and her study of Carnatic music. 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 the new album, as is her work with composer and saxophonist Darius Jones, and her study of Carnatic music. Elder Ones performed extensively nationally and internationally, on tours and at festivals such as NYC Winter Jazzfest, Berliner Festspiele in Germany and Festiwal Jazz Jantar in Poland, among other. 

Kidambi is invested in the performance creative music, from free improvisation and  jazz, to experimental bands, and new music. As an improviser, she has played with Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey, Daniel Carter, Ava Mendoza, Sam Newsome, Peter Evans, Trevor Dunn, and many innovators in the New York scene. A life changing decision to create her own artistic work came from a collaboration with the late AACM founder, composer-pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’, performing his Dialogue Social. Kidambi has also premiered Darius Jones’ The Oversoul Manual at Carnegie Hall, Samesoul Maker at Roulette, LawNOrder at Winter Jazzfest, a premiere of electronic composer Ben Vida’s work Slipping Control for voice and electronics with Tyondai Braxton at the Borderline Festival in Athens, Greece, the premiere of the late Robert Ashley’s final opera CRASH at the Whitney Biennial, a Jazz Gallery commission for Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl, the premiere of William Parker’s Soul of Light and forthcoming recording project Voices Fall From the Sky and a commission from the Jerome Foundation for her quartet Elder Ones at Roulette and artist residency at EMPAC to record the group’s debut album.

Amirtha earned a B.F.A. in Voice from Loyola Marymount University and an M.M. in Voice and Musicology from CUNY Brooklyn College, where she served as adjunct faculty. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University.