When Arundas plays, the crowd is a mix of friends and family, belly dancers and the broad array of Asheville freaks who want to get down and boogie. Arundas plays a range of collaborative music that explores fantasy-like mystical rhythms, incorporating sitar, dun-duns, chanting and heavy, heavy drumming.
The band itself is a little hard to describe: At once ethereal and earthy, trance-y and grounded, ancient and modern, practiced and intuitive. Says the group's bio, "Sala founded Arundas after some years of forest dwelling and wandering here and there. In the North Kingdom Sala met Xu-Cero who joined Arundas as engineer and producer. Later, after coming to the blue mountains, they met vocalist/forest creature Ko-Soin and he helped create their first published work Pathlessways." Make of that what you will.
A recent Wednesday night brought Arundas to to the intimate yet funky space that is BoBo Gallery; the band quickly filled the listening room to capacity. The music grew from the beginning, soft and steady. The first set rose like smoke — sitar and soft guitar transitioning into the thundering of big drums and djembes. Soon bellies were shaking and arms were flailing as Arundas hit its stride.
The first set, typically an hour-long crowd warming showcase, was rather light. The second set was the backbone of this Arundas performance. A low undertone grew to the wailing of a musical engine. All traditional social mannerisms, along with the buzz of conversation, dropped as tribal instincts took over the crowd. Dance as primordial/exotic/intricate/elemental as the music played became the ultimate form of communication.
The collection of instruments the band incorporates sets the runway for a limitless fantastical scale. (Imagine a meeting of Renaissance Faire performers, Kirtan musicians and psychedelic rockers.) Sage Sansome sings and chants in a heavenly voice that soars over the sonic boom of Trey Crispin and Simon Tismon pounding drums as large as they are. Alex Caruso on sitar sends notes that echo off every corner, while Jeremy Schewe strums strings and blows flutes, swaying and shifting the movement of the dance hall.
A few of Arundas' regular musicians were absent but that's part of the magic of this band. They are a collaborative and transforming musical project that has not one but many configurations. Since 2005, they have been playing the Asheville scene, making music throughout the town.
The last set, though powerful, saw the crowd dwindle, and wrapped up the night's relations. Listeners drifting from the club into the dark streets seemed to be spirited away to the dream world that the music captivates.
Arundas is about musical expression, experience and dance. It's music for grooving, for drinking, for meditating and for dreaming. Those who lined up at the door early — before the show sold out — found the opportunity to dance with lovers, swing on strangers and shake tail to pure primitive rhythm, where sweat and heart poured into music from beginning to end.