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Karma Sheen is the Fearless Revival of Psychedelic Rock

Fearless Revival - Karma Sheen are the Fearless Revival of Psychedelic Rock (Credit: Pexels)

London-based band Karma Sheen is spearheading the fearless revival of the psychedelic rock scene with its own brand of Hindustani classical groove.

Reminiscent of the rock giants of the ’60s, the members of Karma Sheen are bringing their own cultural sounds into the mix.

WHO IS KARMA SHEEN?

Based out of London, England, Karma Sheen formed in 2014 to bring about the resurrection of psychedelic rock with a little help from the band’s Pakistani, Indian and Sufi roots.

Led by frontman Sameer Khan, the band has started to make a name for itself in London’s music circuit. To get a sense of who Karma Sheen really is, check out the video below or click here to see their cover of Raag Jog, a traditional Hindustani song, at the Amersham Arms in London last year.

Karma Sheen performs “Raag Jog” live at the Amersham Arms in London on Jul. 17, 2021.

THE SOUND OF FEARLESS REVIVAL

Karma Sheen are the essence of the ’60s psychedelic scene. Creamy tones reminiscent of the Jimi Hendrix Experience are the most prevalent part of their sound, though listeners with a good ear can also pick up notes of Cream, Ravi Shankar, The Doors and the Beatles.

Sameer Khan via @karma_sheen on Instagram

The Magician, for example, is the spitting image of The Doors’ 1967 song “People are Strange.” The heavy, driving rhythm heard on “Through the Night” screams early Jimi Hendrix. Listen to “Fire” by Hendrix to hear the similarities.

The older generation, which grew up seeing these bands play live, can also attest to the importance of psychedelic sound.

John Crawford, who saw The Doors play live in Denver, Colo., U.S.A. at the height of the psychedelic scene in 1968 said, “The hip people were the ones on the fringe of that scene. I’m a huge Pink Floyd freak, that’s my kind of psychedelic. They were psychedelic. And Hendrix, I liked that sound.”

NOT JUST A PSYCHEDELIC BAND

Karma Sheen is not simply a psychedelic band, however. What truly makes them unique is their ability to combine their Sufi, Hindustani roots with an electric cacophony of psychedelic sound.

In an interview with Happy Magazine in 2019, Karma Sheen shared some insights into the cultural roots of the songs on their debut EP “Alif“:

“The entire record is a perfect personification of my own self and the music I’ve loved and the music that influences me and of course my clash of cultures that I live every day,” Karma Sheen said. “The identity fight of ‘just how British am I?‘ vs. ‘how much do I feel my heritage?‘ The truth is, I am both 100%. Pakistan in the Cricket and England in the football, Kerrang!”

THE ROOTS

Hindustani classical, the style of music from which Karma Sheen gets its signature sound, formed around the 12th century in Northern India.

The entire record is a perfect personification of my own self and the music I’ve loved and the music that influences me and of course my clash of cultures that I live every day.

After eight centuries, the sound is still alive. Karma Sheen is one of only a few bands using it in a psychedelic capacity, however.

In a recent interview with Fishbowl Events, Khan spoke on Karma Sheen’s use of the genre:

“Even though maybe in the U.K. Karma Sheen may be one of the only bands that are doing it, it’s not like we’re the first band or something,” Khan said. “But maybe in the underground scene, like, you could say that we’re the reference point for this music, because there’s no one else but us to look back on in the UK scene, in the South-Asian, British, U.K. scene and be like ‘Oh, these guys did that.'”

Photo by Nick Kane on Unsplash
Photo by Nick Kane on Unsplash

LOVE IS LIFE, LIFE IS MUSIC AND MUSIC IS LOVE

The fearless revival of psychedelic rock has officially begun. Karma Sheen has shifted the boundaries of the genre, with the help of Hindustani classical, in new and exciting ways.

The melding of cultures – Pakistani, Indian and English – has given the band a groovy, electrifying sound not heard in over 50 years. The genre has spontaneously found new life in Karma Sheen’s capable hands, so they must be doing something right.

The band’s mantra “Love is Life, Life is Music and Music is Love,” sums up their passion rather eloquently.


To hear more of Karma Sheen’s music or to see tour dates, head to their website here.

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