23 March 2009

Monday's mp3: In the Indian Lounge

If there's one word that reveals the tone of Putumayo's new India 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.

In 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 found here.

It's 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 passion?

Perhaps 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.

[mp3] A R Rahman, Chinmayee: Tere Bina
from the album Putumayo Presents India

By the way, Putumayo is branching out into other media with this release, publishing a companion book called India: A Cultural Journey, which "combines photography, travelogue, and cultural exploration." Looks nice, from the sample pages. Nice and gentle.

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