Various Artists

India: The Women's Voice

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India: The Women's Voice Review

by Richie Unterberger

India has a large recording industry encompassing numerous diverse musical styles. So one has the feeling that this 12-song compilation of 1980-2004 women-sung material couldn't hope to reflect more than a tiny sliver of the music issued by female Indian woman vocalists. However, within its confines it does cover an admirable range, much (though not all) of it tied to recordings used by the Indian "Bollywood" film industry. Most of these names will be largely unrecognized in Europe and North America, with the possible exceptions of Asha Bhosle and her older sister, Lata Mangeshkar (identified in the liner notes as "India's most successful recording artiste"). In some respects, the anthology contains the kind of Indian music with which many Western listeners are most familiar: high, winding vocal lines and melodramatic melodies, though these arrangements and songs aren't as frivolous and emphatically cinematic as some of the Bollywood soundtracks that have gained global exposure. Yet a good chunk of this CD falls well outside stereotypes of Bollywood or Indian woman singers, whether it's the tinge of modern electronic dance beats in Alka Yagnik & Hema Sardesai's "San Sanana" or, more satisfyingly, the rolling rhythmic scatting of Richa Sharma, Mahalaxmi, Vaishali & Shoma's "Yaro Yarodi," which for some will sound close in some ways to African music. Chitra Singh's "Ishq Mujhko Nahin," in contrast, has a melancholy lilt and tastefully lush orchestration that bring it closer -- in a good way -- to pop melodics than most of the other selections. Several tracks also stay closer to the more traditional instrumentation of Indian classical music and raga. It's good value for a compilation, too, as many of the tracks exceed the five-minute barrier, totaling up to 70 minutes of music.

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