various artists,
Bhangra Beatz
(Naxos World, 2002)

I'm sure you have often wondered just exactly what "bhangra" might be. Well, let me put your mind at rest and finally answer this perplexing question. Bhangra is a traditional music of the Punjab region in North India that crosses into Pakistan. This type of folk music has been around since the 15th century and celebrates the harvest season. The music is dominated by the dhol, described in the promotional material as "a heavy bass and high treble double-headed drum, worn around the neck."

Bhangra Beatz is a compilation CD that "introduces re-invented Indian traditional folk music for the DJ generation whose infectious grooves will make your sub-consciousness sway" (promo material). In other words, mix traditional bhangra with dance music, rap, reggae and R&B to come up with a contemporary sound.

If you have ever seen a typical Indian movie, you know that many scenes throughout a film will suddenly be interrupted by a spontaneous song and dance segment. This is the type of music you will find on Bhangra Beatz. (Just as an aside, when Bombay changed its name to Mumbai, why didn't Bollywood become Mollywood? I have asked several of my Indian friends this and they just look at me like I've lost it and chuckle politely.)

Eleven tracks represent bhangra artists from around the globe. Balbir Bittu has two songs. The other nine selections are from Anakhi, Jassi Premi, Jazzy B., Balwinder Safri, Sukshinder Shinda, K.B. & the Gang, Soni, the Sahotas and Bhinda Jatt.

The only song that truly stands out (because it lacks vocals and an electronic beat) is Shinda's "Dhamiwala Da Dhol," which is a three-minute instrumental percussion ride. This is, perhaps, the most traditional piece on the CD, but I prefer the more contemporary beat, myself. Many of the songs are very similar in style. One main male vocalist will sing most of a song accompanied by a host of background singers providing a counterpoint. Percussion, however, is the driving force behind all the tracks.

I have heard better modern Indian music from contemporary Bollywood films, but that doesn't stop me from popping Bhangra Beatz in to the CD player every once in a while. Since this is a compilation CD, I at least know whose music I might want to investigate further (Balbir Bittu, the Sahotas and Anakhi). Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a sudden hankerin' for some Indian food.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 11 October 2002

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