Various Artists

Taste of Asia

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This 14-track collection covers six artists from Laos, Thailand, China, and Indonesia, so it does offer a real taste of several styles, rather than the usual scattering of baubles provided by most samplers. Most of the tracks are quite accessible. "Pheng Sat Niao," with its accordion-like mouth organ and its two-step beat, sounds like Laotian Cajun music. "Ceurik Rahwana" is a song from Indonesia about regret based on Hindu and Buddhist ideas. It is sung by a man and a woman who both have passionate voices; they are accompanied by a local harp and flute. There are two very intense and dramatic pieces for the pipa, the Chinese lute, performed by Wu Man.

This is a collection that will repay the attention one puts into it. A very good place to start exploring the music of Eastern and Southeastern Asia.

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