Putumayo :: Asian Groove
This compilation is brought to you by Putumayo World Music. I can't say that I've heard a lot from their catelogue, but they have another notable compilation out called "Arabic Groove." There are some worthy songs that they have managed not to miss on this comp, but my reactions on the whole were less than favourable since it seems a mixed bag presented.
The first song of the album had me pretty confused. It was the straight-up bhangra/synth/uk hit "Pheli War" by Bally Jagpal. Throughout the song, I kept pondering whether the rest of the album was Bhangra-influenced too. However, my worries were soon put aside with Karmix's "Sabhyata" - one of the better songs included on the album. The vocals and simple beat of the song make it a "groovy" song. The smooth underlying bass with the occassional scratching make it a soft-pleasure to listen to. The very next song by Mo' Horizons seamlessly blends together almost sounding as if its a continuation of the Karmix song. Thumbs up to the album producer for the track order here. However, the very next track has me debating again the bhangra roots that they're trying to go back to.
From Badar Ali Khan's "Black Night" to Susheela Raman's "Mamavatu," they've included some classy songs. Badar Ali Khan starts off with a deep half-snare beat with a little electro-guitar and packs a lot of punch when turned up high. Nitin Sawhney with Mungal have another winner by the name of "Awake." A lovely Shankarian tune - complete with sitars and acoustic drumlines. Deepak Ram's song "A Night in Lenasia" was the track I was least looking forward to listen to, but it surprised me with the Middle Eastern vocals. The last of the good tracks, Susheela Raman's "Mamavatu" is a lovely track taken off her album Salt Rain which won her critical acclaim. This song was recorded for the Women of the World GIFTED album. It lends a constant reminder to the "Sounds of Nature" series released by Times Music in India which are a collection of nature-hugging soundtracks with lovely flutes/tabla/sitar/santoor ensembles.
The last two tracks on this album, though being good songs, I didn't feel they were the right choices for this album. Bally Sagoo's "Noorie" was released about 3 years before this album, and wasnt really a major hit at the street date of this album. (A side note - get the Drum'n'Bass version of "Noorie," it sounds wicked). Kam Dhillon's "Aankh Naal" is a good song - pumping with good clean solid beats - however, it would be more at home on an album with other Bhangra/Hip Hop tracks.
In the end I felt the lack of decision-making in this album. The game plan of cashing-in on the UK bhangra-explosion and still delivering an eclectic mix of Asian grooves led to this album being precariously balanced on the fence - almost falling over at times.