Putamayo Presents India
Putamayo World Music, 2009
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/01/2009
India captures the best of the new wave of Indian-Western fusion music that has become increasingly popular in the contemporary Indian pop music scene. Although traditionally, Bollywood musicals have dominated pop music in India, the growing exposure received by talented independent musicians mixed with the unavoidable influence of Western music has transformed not only Bollywood music, but it has changed the vocabulary of Indian pop as well. The result is a zealous music scene, hungry to experiment with the modern and clever enough not to compromise or relinquish the traditional.
Despite the fact that all the songs are sung in traditional Indian languages (no English lyrics here), the music on this compilation is mainly geared to the “Western” audiences, intending to be palatable even to the least familiar with the music from this subcontinent. The mix, which includes music both Bollywood and non-Bollywood, doesn’t have the grandiose whimsical characteristic of Bollywood musicals, but instead is tight and boiled down.
There is a noticeable presence of Western-born musicians and singers of Indian origin here – English-born musician Niraj Chag; American resident, guitarist Sanjay Divecha; Australian-raised singer Susheela Raman; South African-born flutist Deepak Ram; and Canadian-born singer Kiran Ahluwalia – and their presence provides a fresh Westerner’s perspective on the music on their native country. They fit in perfectly with the heavyweights of Indian classical music like Bombay Jayshri, Uma Mohan, and Satish Vyas, who try out a neoteric approach to their singing and music. Also thrown into the mix is a track by the famed music-composer AR Rehman, who bagged the Oscar for the Best Score and the Best Original Song for his work on Slumdog Millionaire.
The modern beats and sophisticated playing with the synthesizer, along with the pristine production on this compilation shows how comfortably Indian music has espoused the juggernaut that is Western pop, and instead of trying to eschew it, has used it wisely to create a whole new chapter in Indian as well as Western music, one in which the two seemingly disparate worlds exist as one huge melting pot of mottled musical cultures.
Putomayo has done a fine job in creating a product that is not just easy on the taste-buds of an “Indipop” novice but is also delectable. The accompanying booklet – in English, French, and Spanish – which has detailed biographies of the singers and musicians featured on the disc, in addition to a glossary of various terms used in the booklet (and even a recipe for “Sweet Saffron Pilaf with Nuts and Currants), proves a valuable accessory. Still, it would have been more interesting if whole translated lyrics were also included (instead of lyrical snippets) to give a taste of the emotionally passionate poetry of this culture.