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Talvin Singh & Sangat :: Songs for the Inner World (Live At La Basilique, Saint Denis)
[naive]   review from derek  


To this day, Talvin Singh's Anokha remains the starting point for anyone interested in getting to the roots of the UK's Asian Underground. He has since defined and refined the genre with albums like Ha, and OK, manipulating man and machine with sonic gusto. Besides exploring the electronic treatment of his classically-trained tabla background, Singh's mark may more be left for his fervent intent of exploring international musics. His incredible production work on the Master Musicians of Jajouka, as well as worldly contribution to the Back to Mine mixed-CD series, both point to a growing awareness of form within forms.

Songs for the Inner World is his most ambitious (and possibly most successful) to date. Not to detract from past accomplishments, but the record is painstakingly gorgeous, working Tunisian, African and electronic influences into a traditional Indian sound. Asked by the Saint Denis festival to put together a project, Singh employed an exceptional roster: thumri vocalist/musicologist Vidya Rao, oud player Smadj (Jean Pierre Smadja of the oud outfit DuOud), Bansuri flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, vocalist/percussionst Ravi Prasad, vocalist/pianist Pankaj Awasthi and kora/cello player Tunde Jegede.

The opening 17:31 of "Only You" is a winding labyrinth, many movements within itself converging onto Awasthi's vocals. Starting off with sole tabla (an apt introduction to Singh's domain), the song explodes into a variety of peaks, taking its time to build and ebb; like the true nature of a raga, it is emotional, contemplative, reflective and as diverse as human emotion itself. The remaining four tracks offer much the same: Rao's heartbreaking "Etherplay," the brilliant digital/organic interplay between computer and tabla on "21st Tabula," the downtempo swirl of kora, tabla and voice on "Arternal."

The final "Trotamundo" is equally moving, a stunning dialogue created between kora and Bansuri evoking dreamlike atmospherics. The entire album moves as such, a slow testament to the patience of emerging international fusion. Unlike many projects that splice and borrow, Singh properly builds an assembly of highly educated musicians who excel at their respective genres, as well as lend their talents to the whole. No one element overpowers, all play a singular role of creating an exceptional album certain to receive due accolade. Singh's entire career has been a building toward this, and Songs is yet another certifiable claim on an incredible resume.



ethnotechno rating: 4 out of 5
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  1. Only You
  2. Etherplay (pick)
  3. 21st Tabula (pick)
  4. Arternal
  5. Trotamundo (pick)