No one will ever accuse James Asher of not believing in multiculturalism; on Raising the Rhythms, the British instrumentalist combines rock, funk, dance music, and/or jazz with a variety of African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern influences. The result is a very unpredictable CD -- from one track to the next, you have no idea what part of the globe Asher will look to for inspiration. Asher's name has, at times, appeared on the new age charts, but Raising the Rhythms isn't new age. While new age music is known for being peaceful, tranquil, and calm, none of those adjectives describe this CD. In fact, parts of Raising the Rhythms are quite exuberant and extroverted -- this isn't chill-out music in the true sense. Asher doesn't actually play any instruments on this project; his role is strictly that of a producer/composer, and he oversees a group of talented musicians who play everything from trumpet (Ted Emmett), saxophone (Dave Lewis), and electric guitar (Volker Grün and Thomas Blug) to the Native American flute (Nigel Shaw) and Indian tabla drums (Sandeep Raval). Raising the Rhythms gets off to a very lively start with "Tropical Zinge," which combines Caribbean elements with a strong African pop influence. And after that, Asher incorporates influences from North Africa ("Serpent of the Nile") and the Middle East ("Spice Souk") as well as Central or West Africa ("Zingawele," "Exubera"). Raising the Rhythms indicates that Asher has absorbed a wide variety of African pop; while parts of this CD remind the listener of exuberant, high-energy styles like soukous and zouk, the haunting "Cobra Call" is mindful of the moodier African pop that has come out of Ethiopia and the Sudan. Anyone who appreciates a wide variety of world music will find a lot to admire about Raising the Rhythms.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson