Ivan Tucakov &
the Tambura Rasa,
(self-produced, 2004)

Tambura Rasa is a world fusion project combining "Gypsy, Afro-Latin, Flamenco, Balkan, and more," according to the group's website. This is an ambitious undertaking, even considering the many world fusion groups now recording.

The combination works, however. One reason is that even though there are other musicians on this CD, Tambura Rasa is an actual performing group that has developed its sound with live performances.

The members are Ivan Tucakov on nylon string guitar, Tarun Nayar on tabla and darbuka, Suzka on violin, Mike Michalkow on percussion and Brian Poulsen on lead guitar. Guest bassist David Spidel is on seven tracks. All the instruments are acoustic (except maybe the bass), and there are, thankfully, no added electronic effects or beats.

Guest artists on various songs add influences from different parts of the world. "Ghazal" has a definite East Indian sound with sarod player Aditya Verma. Adding Turakov's guitar into the mix shouldn't work, but somehow it does. In any case, sarod and guitar duets are quite rare.

Luis Gutierrez adds vocals and Tucakov changes his style to make "Dulces Suenos" a Latin song. Guests Christopher Suen on guzheng and Victor Chorobik on duduk and tenor flute combine with Turakov to create a Chinese motif on "Mausim." The duduk is an Armenian wind instrument, but again, it fits right in.

Tucakov, who engineered and produced Viaje, also wrote all 10 tracks, except for the traditional Macedonian "Jovano Jovanke." The songs are superior, with beautiful melodies most often carried by Suzka. Both Suzka and Paulson are talented soloists, giving much of the CD a low-key jazz feel.

In the midst of a lot of gimmicky fusion, Tambura Rasa stands out as a group that has formed a worthwhile synthesis of music from many cultures.

by Dave Howell
16 December 2006

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