Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: Asian Groove

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Somewhere along the line, the term "oriental" became politically incorrect. The term was in no way derogatory -- it simply referred to people from what used to be called the Orient (China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, and Thailand), just as the term "Scandinavian" is applied to people from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. But the language police took a disliking to the word (without justification), and now, the word Asian is generally applied to those who are from what was once known as the Orient. So when one sees the title Asian Groove, it is logical to assume that Putumayo means Asian as in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, but Putumayo actually means Asian as in Indian and Pakistani. There are plenty of excellent compilations of traditional Indian and Pakistani music, but Asian Groove is totally modern in its outlook -- most of the artists combine Indian or Pakistani elements with modern funk, dance-pop, electronica, or reggae. Technically, the contemporary Indian and Pakistani pop sounds that dominate this rewarding compilation are indeed Asian grooves, but infectious tracks like Bally Sagoo's "Noorie" and A.S. Kang's "Terian Gulabi Buliyan" have more in common with Turkish, Jewish, or Greek pop than they do with the pop sounds that are coming out of Japan, China, or Korea. And that's because Indian and Pakistani music -- like Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Jewish, Syrian, or North African music -- involves what is called modal playing. Those who aren't professional musicians may not know the technical meaning of the word modal, but they'll be able hear the parallels between Asian Groove and collections of Turkish pop or Algerian rai. Karmix's "Sabhyata," in fact, combines Indian and Algerian elements. Asian Groove doesn't have anything to do with Chinese or Japanese pop, but it's a lively, enjoyable survey of contemporary Indian and Pakistani sounds.

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