Various Artists

Voices of Hope: Sabera Foundation

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The Sabera Foundation, begun in 1999, is dedicated to developing health care, education, safe shelter, nutrition, and self-employment programs for young women in India. This CD features contributions from a host of international names, with the aim of raising enough money to build a second shelter home and hospital in addition to the shelter that already existed in Calcutta when this disc was released in late 2002. The dire conditions faced by many, many young women in India are no joke, but as with many well-intentioned charitable musical projects of this sort, the music is not as noble as the cause. Although there's a mixture of international popular styles, the most prevalent common denominator is earnest MOR music of overreaching slickness and sincerity. The inclusion of an otherwise unavailable track by Alanis Morissette ("Offer," in which she plainly sings "How dare I ignore a third-world country") will guarantee that some music fans buy this regardless of their sociological concerns. There's reason to be wary about the "duet" between Bob Dylan and the Calcutta Sabera Foundation Girls on "Knockin' on Heaven's Door": The hazy liner notes for that track say he was asked for the master, implying that this is just the Dylan recording with overdubs, though it's not spelled out. Those two songs actually aren't typical of the record, which leans more toward bland adult contemporary pop with slight world music touches, as in Sting and Vicente Amigo's "Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot," Israeli vocalist Noa's "Ave Maria," and Ricky Martin's "Amare Ey Man Galie." The Calcutta Sabera Foundation Girls do sing backing vocals on many of the tracks, but their contributions are pretty low-key in many cases. Some actresses crash the party too: Penelope Cruz doing "Penelope" with Vicente Amigo, and Melanie Griffith "Cross Our Hearts" with her sister Tracy Griffith. Opera singers are heard from as well, with Luciano Pavarotti performing a duet with Elton John on "Living Like Horses" and Placido Domingo doing "Himno Real Madrid" with contributions from the Boys from Real Madrid Calcutta. It's not an appealing or inspiring mix of sounds, making one wonder if the names were chosen to guarantee a certain amount of mainstream sales rather than create the most effective musical result. And if you wish to support the cause it benefits without listening to the CD, you can bypass the middlepeople and contribute to the Sabera Foundation directly.

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