In spiritual circles, a Wayfinder is considered to be someone who uses the stars, either literally or figuratively, to find one’s way. In some traditions, Wayfinders are also considered to be enlightened beings or ancestors who have blazed the trail for those to come after them. As Mohamad Assani, award-winning sitar player and composer, was making his most recent album, in the wilds of Canada, he claims to have identified with the Wayfinders of yore.
In Assani’s his own words, “‘Wayfinder’ is an act of gathering and discovery. It is the story of a musician-explorer who has journeyed the world and now has come home to empty his pockets and share his treasures.” It seems he genuinely did some searching to come up with this album and the resulting music certainly confirms that. With his masterful playing of the sitar both grounding and lifting up the tone of each song, Assani explores multiple genres both in EDM and in world music, marrying them all together in an album that certainly lives up to its name.
Wayfinder opens, as any spiritual journey should, with “Awakening.” Electronic fans will immediately recognize synths that sound a lot like early Grimes. Moving further into the eight-minute track, the sound gets a bit looser, more like a halftime track in beat but with a much lighter bass flavor. The tabla drums take over that role, so the track is grounded but also quite light and ethereal.
From “Awakening,” the album vacillates between this EDM-infused music and more traditional-sounding Indian and Middle Eastern work. “Serendipity” sounds like it could take the place of Morcheeba in any Guy Richie movie while “Black Sugar” has a bit of a hip hop flare. “Darbari Dub” has a strong goa trance vibe and, most surprising of all, album closer “Transit” has a fast breakbeat that is structured a bit like an industrial track. Industrial sitar music? If it works, why not?
Despite quite often sounding like the kind of music Joe Rogan listens to while on one of his DMT trips, Assani’s music is grounded in doing good in the real world. He’s a champion for the cause of furthering Indian and Pakistani music on the world stage, especially the traditional music with actual Indian and Middle Eastern musicians. He’s played for many heads of state and his passion for splicing together traditional Eastern music with popular Western music is done with this goal in mind.
In partnership with the Indian Summer Music Festival in Canada, Assani sought to help keep the quarantined masses entertained and premiered Wayfinder on a livestream last Friday. Here fans can not only experience the journey of the album but see just how technically incredible a sitar master’s playing is. Assani also takes time to explain the inspiration behind each track before playing, which helps the audience more fully immerse themselves in this beautiful journey.
As EDM and, historically, many Western music genres, take so much influence from Eastern music traditions, it’s important to listen to and support the actual Eastern musicians as well, especially in the case of artists like Assani who are reaching out to innovate and interweave musical traditions in this way. Music is always a global journey and, if the current global situation has taught us anything, essential as a unifying factor across the globe. Musicians like Assani who are seeking to unify music are the true “wayfinders” of this planet as they continue to inspire and show us the way.
Wayfinder is out now and can be purchased on or streamed on Bandcamp or Spotify. Watch the player above to see Assani perform and tell the story of the album in his Indian Summer Music Festival livestream.