Various Artists

Swaraj: Future Asian Beat

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As so many of the people loosely grouped under its banner ceaselessly remind listeners, this is not the Asian underground. What it is, really, is an eclectic mix of electronica with an East Asian heart, whether it's the singing on Nitin Sawhney's "Homelands" (appearing here in a Coldcut remix) or the twanging sitar of Juttla's "Bionic Beats." To a greater or lesser extent it informs everything here. Maybe not the rhythms, whose debt is more to drum'n'bass or the dancefloor, but in melodies or arrangements. And sometimes it can take strange turns: the strings on Badmarsh and Shri's "Bang" echo an India reflected through the prism of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." Perhaps the real highlight is Fun-da-mental's "Pollution," which uses the powerful qawwali voices of Rizwan Muazzam to full effect over a thumping beat -- lean, mean, and aggressive. The odd one out would seem to be Banco de Gaia, who is far from Asian, and even the ethnic Juttla remix seems like it's trying to put a square peg in a round hole (much the same is true of Viragi's track, which opens like the introduction to Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not to Come"). But overall, for a glimpse of the future of East Asian music -- most specifically East Asian music out of Britain -- this offers a bright picture.

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