review from ravi
The Dhol Foundation was started with the mission of taking the dhol to the wider world. Holding classes for over 200 people in London, TDF is fulfilling its mission locally. Their releases like Big Drum, Small World and now Drum-Believable are taking the dhol and familiarizing the world with its style. Johnny Kalsi, head of TDF and lead drummer of Afro-Celt Sound System [now Afro-Celts] definitely follows up on this mission statement with Drum-Believable. Kalsi's background with various music groups explains some of the influences on the music in this album.
Providing vocals and sarangi to "Palace of Love," Ustad Sultan Khan brings a familiar sound to the album. The accompanying dhol rhythms by Kalsi and string arrangements via Salim Merchant [Liberation, Adnan Sami] are mixed to perfection in this track as the album starts off on a high note. Following in the steps of Big Drum, Small World, TDF's latest work mirrors many of the Afro Celt's songs. Mairead Nesbitt - a guest fiddler for Afro Celts- provides her fiddle in the ambient "Simply H," a lead-in for the next track. One of the most exciting and involved songs on the album featuring many members from the Afro Celts, "After the Rain" is one of those tracks that reminds you of Riverdance, but on steroids with an Indian flavour.
"Fistful of Dhollars" is the epitome of drums and beats on this album, where melody is not a necessity because distorted tablas and dhols carry the song. More relaxing melodies start off both "After Life" and "Anyana Duniya," which are reminiscent of Talvin Singh's "It's Not Over" from Ha, but with dhols, and eventually lead to a stronger beat. After straying from bhangra in the previous tracks, "Dark Star" excites senses with Kalsi, 7 TDF drummers, and Sonia Panesar on vocals bringing the song style back to India. The very-catchy "Jingo" thrives on a techno-ish repetition of beats, melody and the phrase "Jingo."
In another successful incorporation of foreign influence on TDF's music, "Breathe" features Spanish guitars and lyrics. This track does not necessarily focus on TDF's drums, but during the slow transitions in the song, one can hear Kalsi intertwining tablas with the Spanish guitar. The end of the album does not disappoint. For those not able to hear TDF live, they have included a 5-minute track that shows the musical prowess of the dhol.
Traversing musical ground spanning India, Ireland, and Spain, Drum-Believable envelopes the Dhol Foundation's mission statement of taking the dhol to a wider world. Though no song stands out as a "must-listen" song, this album is worth having because of its wide sonic palette. The dhol is a fascinating instrument and its power is demonstrated by Johnny Kalsi and the TDF drummers.