After two albums as the Ali Khan band, the San Francisco-based Shabaz offers a new name and a refined approach to the techno-meets-Indian music (somewhat different than Britain's Asian underground) they've developed over several years. The important thing here is the vocals of Sukhawat Ali Khan and his sister, Riffat Salamat, the children of master singer Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. Their heritage dates back hundreds of years, including some qawwali music, but is really more classically oriented, which finds its way into the mix on tracks like "Jewleh Lal" and the experimental "Chhalia," where the passion of the singing threatens to overwhelm the heavy beats. The backgrounds come largely from Richard Michos (Salamat's husband), who's equally at home, it seems, with rock guitar, programming, loops, and beats, than with the more traditional Indian sounds. Whereas the Asian underground scene attempted to put Indian (and Pakistani) music into a club context, making it danceable, Shabaz uses the song as their framework on which to hang everything else, giving greater cohesion and listenability to the project. "Queenie's Jam," recorded in France, features Narada Michael Walden behind the production board, with Egypt's Hakim giving extra vocal support, and "Raga" has help from English electronica duo Zohar (with the track working better than their entire album). The album is a fusion that works, crossing cultural boundaries in a natural, non-self-conscious way that brings out the depths of both cultures in a rich, contemporary style.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson