artists : Putumayo Presents India (Putumayo)
there's one word that reveals the tone of Putumayo's
compilation, it's "gentle." As in "a
captivating musical masala featuring mesmerizing
vocals and gentle beats." No fiery ragas here,
nor Bollywood crooning, nor Punjabi partying.
truth, I did find this disc somewhat enticing...also
puzzling. The music -- yes, the gentle music --
is all soft edges and cool vibes. With lot of atmospheric
keyboard/electronics floating around behind the
vocals, guitars, and tabla. And yes, the predominant
strings are guitars; there's nary a sitar to be
nice music, and much in line with the Putumayo Lounge
series (which raises the question of why this CD
isn't called Indian Lounge). But having
just returned from Delhi, I'm puzzled about just
whose India this music represents. I heard nothing
like it in the taxis, in the stores, in the concerts
I attended. Is India really India without the musical
the explanation is that a number of these artists
live or were raised and educated outside of India
-- in Canada, the USA, the UK. In any case, the
music is likeable enough, but don't expect it to
have the dramatic, emotional impact of a Ravi Shankar
solo or the latest hit from Panjabi MC.
the way, Putumayo is branching out into other media
with this release, publishing a companion book called
A Cultural Journey, which "combines
photography, travelogue, and cultural exploration."
Looks nice, from the sample pages. Nice and gentle.
Fever: Sleepwalking Through the Mekong
the US consciousness, Asia is a mix of mystery and
factories and food. Japan is known for cars and
sushi; China is known for cheap (sometimes tainted)
products, action films, and rising global power;
Korea's got kimchi; India has curries and call centers;
Vietnam has in increasing tourist draw replacing
the post-war jitters; Indonesia has orangutans,
giant lizards, and great chicken satay. And Cambodia?
The land once ravaged by the Khmer Rouge has yet
to emerge as a global player with a distinct identity.
But a band from California has been providing what
could be the soundtrack to modern Cambodia, and
their new film documenting a trip to Cambodia may
help put a contemporary face on the nation.
Fever's Sleepwalking Through the Mekong (set for
release on April 14) includes a audio soundtrack
CD along with the DVD, containing the 67-minute
film along with several bonus features on traditional
Cambodian festivals, dance, and a short but fascinating
segment on Cambodian master musicians. The trip
coincided with Cambodia's 2005 Water Festival marking
the end of the monsoon, and included the irony-laced
phenomenon of a Western band playing rock and roll
inspired by the classic 1960s and ‘70s Cambodian
pop music that was nearly eradicated by the cultural
purges of the 1970s. (The film is "dedicated
to the singers and musicians who perished under
the Pol Pot regime.")
the start of the film, band interviews find the
musicians open but questioning, wondering what Khmer
audiences will make of their music. On their first
day in Cambodia, the mood is caught by bassist Senon
Williams, sitting in his hotel room: "I have
no idea what's really going to happen, or how we're
going to be received, or where we're going to play
... but we will figure it out."
do figure it out -- sometimes in unexpected ways
-- as they negotiate their way physically, culturally,
and musically through this culture that has infused
their music since the band was formed around the
turn of the millennium.
companion soundtrack disc includes songs by Dengue
Fever (including the familiar "Tip My Canoe"),
collaborations with master musicians Tep Mary and
Kong Nai, and classic tracks by Khmer musicians
Serey Sothea, Meas Samoun, and Sinn Sisamouth. Listen
to Samoun's "Dondung Goan Gay" and you
might swear it's a displaced brother of 1960s Ethiopian
pop -- a style echoed in Dengue Fever's live "Ethanopium."
Also included are two previously unreleased Dengue
Fever instrumentals: the soundtracky "March
of the Ballroom Animals" and a short sax solo
called "Phnom Chisor Serenade."
refreshing that the film turns out to be about Cambodia
more than about Dengue Fever, and that the band
is so willing to let . More than a great musical
film, this is a great cultural film. Dengue Fever
may just turn out to be the cultural ambassadors
the Khmer people need to usher in more understanding
about their nation. eview
Evok (Home Records)
love receiving packages from Home Records in Belgium.
The little label brings constant surprises, like
the duo of Jeuc Dietrich and Anik Faniel. Dietrich
is, I'm told, a composer, film director, and "probably
one of the most skillful cellists in Belgium."
Faniel is a Belgian composer, singer, and dancer.
With two composers in the house, you can expect
that their music is thoughtful and rich. It's also
very engaging and uncategorizable. Gothic folk rock
or Baroque world music might be appropriate descriptions,
thought their combinations of percussion, hurdy-gurdy,
and vocals also remind of sacred chant groups such
as Vas. It's music to both enjoy and think about;
I'll be doing both as I spend more time with this
Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media