LAL is an intersection between idea, place, and people, where we stand for a moment and discuss the kind of world we will create. The conversation eventually gives way to dance, which, in turn, gives way to conversation which, again, makes room for dance. We will win. There's no doubt." Darren Odonnel
LAL's music is the outcome of a deep and soulful collaboration between songwriter/vocalist Rosina Kazi and her flatmate Nick Murray (a. k. a. "Murr"). Murr's carefully crafted beats, basslines, and fragmented samples flow harmoniously with Rosina's sweet velvet voice and conscious lyrics on every tune they touch. In 1998 Toronto-based Public Transit Recordings (PTR) released their first compilation entitled Code 416 that featured separate tracks from each of them. Murr had already had his name in the spotlight as a member of Juno award-winning hip hop production crew Da Grassroots, while Rosina had been showcasing her soulful skills at Toronto events such as the legendary Desh Pardesh, besides hosting a radio show at CIUT 89. 5 FM where she guided listeners through T. O. 's Hip Hop scene. She had also worked for Tommy Boy Records, and her experience in the industry sharpened her insight into what she might want out of a label. This lead Rosina to join PTR, established by DJ Moonstarr (Kevin Moon) in 1998. She was lured by the sense of closeness that the small but vibrant label offered; in her words, "we're all still struggling, because it's totally independent, but at least you struggle with people that you trust."
It took Rosina a year to convince the reluctant Murr to start making music with her. Caught up in the hip-hop scene for a long time, Murray eventually began to drift away from what he came to see as a rigid and decadent genre, and began to explore new sounds and rhythms that would eventually appear in LAL's music. After Rosina began producing a few tracks on her own, Murr added his talents to the brew. According to him, the commencement of their work together marked a very new turn in their musical tastes and abilities. He told NOW Magazine's Matt Galloway in 2002: "this is a project that takes us both outside of ourselves and what we were used to doing." The 2002 release of their debut album Corners struck a chord with Toronto's urban and electronic scenes, blending subtle South-Asian and West Indian influences with deep reflective songwriting and soulful hip hop, loops, beats and basslines.
On their second record, Warm Belly, High Power, bandmates Rakesh Tewari (instrument), Nilan Perera (bass), Santosh Naidu (instrument) and Ian DeSouza (instrument) lend their talents to the creative process, giving birth to a new collective vision. This record shows what and who LAL really is: an intersection of talented artists with cross-cultural upbringings, forward-thinking musical tastes, and deep commitments to social justice and progressive change.
It is impossible to pigeonholed LAL's music as South Asian, hip hop, electronic, or anything else. This is evidenced by their ability to impress audiences at shows when opening for artists as diverse as Terry Callier (Jazz Café London), Nelly Furtado, Warsawpack, Roy Ayers, Digable Planets and State of Bengal. Their own headlining performances have been legendary events in Toronto and had crowds eagerly anticipating their next appearance. Whether Rosina is crooning live and acappella about the war in the Middle East, or Murr is releasing a spectacular burst of beats from his onstage arsenal, it's easy to tell that LAL's music is unique. It is not geared toward pleasing demographically-bounded markets or any other abstract theoretical monsters that the music industry often likes to feed. Their sound comes from their hearts, from what they believe in both socially and musically. If a whole lot of people happen to love everything about LAL's music, that's just a great side effect of this beautiful outpouring comes so naturally to Rosina Kazi, Nick Murray, and everyone that they work with in the process of perpetuating LAL.