Tag Archives: india

The Bombay Royale: You, Me, Bullets, Love review

Taking on vintage Bollywood the same way that Dengue Fever takes on Cambodian pop, the Bombay Royale manage to evoke the bold glamour and easy swagger of R.D. Burman’s ’60s and ’70s soundtracks while adding just the right amount of cheeky, surf-rockin’ groove to get modern Western audiences to pay attention. The 11-piece band hails from Melbourne, Australia, but their covers of filmi classics like “Jaan Pehechan Ho” and the danceable, hard-swinging originals like “Dacoit’s Choice” that make up most of the record are Bombay-legit and essential party music.

First appeared May 31, 2012 in Orlando Weekly.

Advertisements

Krishna Das show preview (Seattle Weekly)

Even though Krishna Das is actually a Jewish man from Long Island named Jeff, it must be pointed out that he’s done more for Indian music in America than any other musician besides Ravi Shankar and A.R. Rahman. By merging the richly expressive devotional style of Hindu kirtan chant-singing with easily accessible Western melodic structures, Krishna Das makes the intensity of this spiritual music much more palatable to U.S. audiences. Miraculously, though, his performances and albums manage to skirt the muck of New Age solipsism and instead aim for something both transcendent and modern. It’s far from being strictly authentic, but again: Jewish dude from Long Island. This performance will feature frequent Das collaborators Deva Premal and Miten, an English/German couple who indulge in a similarly Westernized take on Indian classical music.

First appeared March 24, 2010 in Seattle Weekly.

DJ Suketu show preview (Seattle Weekly)

For those naive hippies who arrive in Mumbai expecting a world of gurus, cows, and a quaintly impoverished populace that seeks refuge in the technicolor glamour of Bollywood, the reality on the ground is always somewhat shocking. From the southern tip of Colaba to the northern suburbs of Bandra, the city pulses with a vibrant club culture that’s hedonistic and trend-driven. The scene is only one aspect of Mumbai’s pop culture, but it’s a defining one. Most DJs in the scene make their names by remixing Bollywood hits, usually with a tough-guy, street-hop approach or, more likely, a trance-pop vibe that’s upbeat and club-pleasing. DJ Suketu falls firmly into the latter camp, with a remix style that tends to strip everything but the giddy choruses out of the movie’s item number, transforming them into propulsive, four-on-the-floor bangers. His style’s not subtle, but it’s definitely appealing.

First appeared March 17, 2010 in Seattle Weekly.

‘Loins of Punjab Presents …’ movie review (Orlando Weekly)

(3 out of 5)

Peppered with in-jokes – most at the expense of the very community packing these festivals, South Asians making their homes in the U.S. – this film’s audience is limited. The conceit: Loins of Punjab is a desi-founded pork loin company in New Jersey that hits upon the idea of a singing competition for South Asians as a promotional vehicle. Thus, we find stereotypes doing their best Bollywood in a New Jersey hotel. Director Manish Acharya has plenty of fun with those stereotypes, skewering them as deftly as a pork shank being prepped for a kebab. There’s a low-budget vibe to Loins and some of Acharya’s actors are clearly amateur, but buoyant performances by the likes of Jameel Khan, as the event’s super-slick promoter, help elevate the entire affair.

Appeared Sept. 30, 2009 as part of Orlando Weekly‘s coverage of the 2009 South Asian Film Festival.

Kailash Kher show preview (Seattle Weekly)

Of the many vocalists who have staked out careers as successful Bollywood playback singers—the guys and gals who sing the songs the onscreen actors mouth along to—Kailash Kher stands as one of the most distinctive. His singing style is soulful and room-filling, but it also dwells in the upper registers, so it comes across as far more insistent and spiritual than do many of his male counterparts in the business. Deeply influenced by the mystical music of the Bauls and theQawwali singing of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Kher’s voice is as effective in historical period pieces like Mangal Pandey as in comedies like Chandni Chowk to China. Further setting himself apart from the playback-singer crowd, Kher fields a full-time band, Kalaisa, that has scored several hits in India. Although Kher has taken part in some of the big-ticket Bollywood superstar tours of the U.S., this show at the Crocodile is decidedly more grass-roots, with Kalaisa bringing an accessible blend of pop and traditional South Asian sounds. While Kher may belt out a few of his bigger Bollywood hits—if you shout a request for anything, make it “Show Me Your Jalwa,” just for kicks—this is going to be a show that’s light on spectacle and strong on substance. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $25 adv./$30 DOS.

First appeared in Seattle Weekly, Sep. 22, 2009.

DJ Rekha feature (Orlando Weekly)

A dozen years before the Pussycat Dolls slut-stomped their way through a version of “Jai Ho” and a half-decade before M.I.A. and Panjabi MC perked American ears to the notion of South Asian club music, Rekha Malhotra was keeping crowds dancing into the wee hours with her Basement Bhangra Thursdays at S.O.B.’s in New York. While the notion of combining dhol rhythms, hip-hop swagger and yard-style dancehall partying wasn’t an altogether new concept in the late ’90s – Punjabi clubs in West London had been gestating this contemporary take on bhangra for a while – DJ Rekha was one of the first to bring the style to U.S. audiences. However, as Rekha says, Basement Bhangra wasn’t devised as some sort of compartmentalized ethnic party.

“One question that often creeps up is, ‘When you got started with the club nights, was it less diverse? Was it more South Asian [attendees] and then the word got out?’” says Rekha. “But, really, there was a New York club party, and everyone there was one to two degrees away from me, which meant they were activists or artists or whatever. And then the South Asians from the ’burbs started to find out. At some point, a year or two after we started, it exploded to become more South Asian and now it’s somewhere in the middle.

“I think there’s an international movement of dance music that pulls from different styles and, for lack of a better word, ‘ethnic’ beats,” Rekha continues. “Even what you hear in the more niche-y electronica subsets like dubstep, they’re really just about the low end, about the bass, about the drums … and that’s what people respond to on the dance floor.”

That attention to the needs of the dance floor is what helped make Basement Bhangra nights a success story in the New York club scene. Rekha compiled a mix CD last year that captured some of the nights’ energy, although she considers the disc more of a snapshot than a definitive document.

“The reason I never made a CD is because I’m so much about the live experience. … To make a CD is just one 60-minute possibility,” says Rekha.

Still, the album did expose a much larger audience to the percussive power of bhangra and allowed DJ Rekha to take her show on the road. A live Rekha set doesn’t focus solely on bhangra; she mixes in touches of filmi music (she also puts on occasional “Bollywood Disco” nights in New York), full-blown hip-hop and whatever else strikes her fancy.

“When I play out, I definitely mix it up a lot more. It depends on the audience. I’ve got my bag of tricks and I see what the vibe is,” says Rekha.

What will she pull from her bag of tricks for the Orlando gig?

“There’s a huge Caribbean South Asian community in Florida, but I don’t know if that’s really my audience. I play some Bollywood stuff, but I would not be worthy to play a chutney set … my chutney music is outdated. I think when I go to any city, there’s a hope that some South Asians will hear about it and know me and come out, but I think the goal is really to get anyone who is into good music and who likes to dance.”

First appeared May 28, 2009 in Orlando Weekly.

Kush Arora: The Dread Bass Chronicles CD review (Ethnotechno)

The parallels between the contemporary, urban strains of bhangra and dancehall are fairly inescapable. From the reverse cultural colonialism that morphed traditional musical styles into aggressive, techno-savvy expressions of working-class angst to the far more basic fact that both are defined by their combinations of hard-hitting percussion and rhythmic vocal styles, the subtle similarities are far more numerous than the pronounced differences.

Despite those connections though, few artists have seen fit to intertwine the two styles, although DJ Rekha has come close to evoking the loose, late-night party style of contemporary dancehall with her DJ sets and remixes of bhangra artists. Still, if DJ Rekha makes Basement Bhangra™, Kush Arora is making Bashment Bhangra™. For his fourth full-length studio album, the Bay Area-based DJ digs deep into the bassbin and comes up with a clutch of cavity-rattling beats and quivering electronic tweaks topped by fevered and flawless mic-thrashing by an array of astounding MCs.

The power of those MCs – particularly the Chicago-based MC Zulu – is what immediately grabs one’s attention when listening to The Dread Bass Chronicles. Zulu’s resonant, clear and authoritative mic style is both nimble and commanding, and as he twists in and out of serpentine rhymes on cuts like “11th Hour Escape” and the sly Bell Biv Devoe-referencing of “Poison Pill,” he does so in a way that manages to be jaw-droppingly complex but without being unnecessarily flashy. That’s a trait that extends to the other rhymers on the disc, although many of them like N4SA, Bongo Chili and Wiseproof go for that gravelly-voiced and rhythmically bouncy style that’s more immediately reminiscent of yard-style dancehall.

Still, it’s not the MCs who have their name on The Dread Bass Chronicles, and the tracks constructed by Kush Arora are what propel the album beyond being a fine dancehall disc and into the territory of being something altogether more special. Arora builds his tracks upon a foundation of thick, booming beats that merge the frenetic thrust of a bhangra dhol rhythm and the liquid thump of a particularly sick dubplate, and were that all he did, it would nearly be enough; bhangra beats – even in the most club-centric hands – tend to be more about speed than strength, while the tick-tick-tock of so many dancehall cuts leave far too little to the imagination. Arora goes for the most effective of both elements, and by weaving a tapestry of tumbi twangs and squelchy electronics atop those beats, he – along with those MCs – wound up crafting a thoroughly impressive album that’s as gritty and tough as it is progressive.

First appeared May 8, 2009 at Ethnotechno.com.