Various Artists

CompilAsian, Vol. 1

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This cleverly titled album is a compilation of Asian fusion music assembled by Steve Coe -- founder of the group Monsoon and the Indipop label and Sheila Chandra's musical partner -- that brings together artists who share the common goal of reaching across cultural borders to fuse Indian musical forms with modern electronic technology and popular western idioms. The twelve selections feature male and female Indian vocalists, and instrumentation that is either sampled or electronically generated, with a strong emphasis on rhythm and percussion, much of it oriented toward the dance floor, with an obvious debt to acid-house, dub and hip-hop. This is exemplified by "Govinda's House" by Suns of Arqa, which happily mixes Prince Far-I's dub-style rapping with hypnotic female vocals over sitars, pumping bass, synthesizers, sampled tabla and electronic drums, with a killer beat. Sheila Chandra offers a soothing counterbalance with "One," a multitracked wordless chant over cascading electric tambura, later reappearing reciting poetry in the background of The Ganges Orchestra's experimental collage "The Calling (Part 1)." Female stars of Hindi film music and the soulful male singer Premi are also represented here, along with the smooth-voiced Najma with a very sophisticated jazz-tinged song. CompilAsian is a thought-provoking and far-reaching celebration of the new generation of Western-influenced Indian artists, with strong appeal for the more adventurous explorers of cross-cultural music who are not afraid to incorporate some tough dance-oriented rhythms into their musical diet.