The many musics of India and Africa are complex, vibrant and life-affirming. The two regions’ musical styles are somewhat intertwined due to centuries of trade and travel, and Trilok Gurtu has created a magnificent document of that cultural crossover. Wally Badarou, the king of world dance beats, was the ideal choice to produce this project, uniting some hot stars from each area for this collection. Roop Kumar, Nandini Sirkar and other Indian virtuosos blend exceptionally well with the African passions of Angelique Kidjo, Salif Keita, Sabine Kabongo and Wasis Diop.
The instantly infectious groove of “Maya” is a fabulous start. Indian film singer Kumar’s engaging vocal over the cheery ethnic bounce delivers a sweet shot of good-time, the first of many to come. Kidjo’s warm performance on “A Friend” could find a comfy home on American R&B radio if only the words were in English. In contrast, Keita’s otherworldly Malian style raises “Have We Lost Our Dream?” to the level of exaltation.
There are so many textures and flavors to choose from here. “Passing By” is dark and sparse, Diop’s quiet vocals are insidiously sensual. “Jhulelal” and “Ingoma” retreat into the profound meditative pulses we tend to expect from Indian traditional musics. “Tuhe” and other tracks are rounded out by a complementary string section. “Ola Bombay” has a majestic triple threat of vocalists: Diop, Nandini Sirkar and Sabine Kabongo, while the Desais levitate to the roof on “Dance With My Lover”. The closing track is a brocaded Indian instrumental that brings listeners down to peaceful relaxation, a cathartic calm. Gurtu has helped make world fusion into a truly rewarding art form since the 80s, and this is a major career highlight for him.