Sunday, April 17, 2005

MIDIval Punditz--MIDIval Times...and niyaz

San Francisco based Six Degrees Records, releases on Tuesday April 19th a couple of albums that many of you will be interested in. The first, and one of my favorites of the year is MIDIval Times, the second full length release by the New Delhi based duo of Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj, collectively known as the MIDIval PunditZ. The follow-up to their very successful 2002 debut is a bit more melodic, a bit more classically Indian, and a little less beat heavy, but nevertheless has changed my perception of what Asian Massive, or Indian influenced electronica can sound like.

The 11 track album opens with the song, "Morning," a teaser of sorts that sets you up for an outrageous and mind-opening roller coaster ride of music. The album is not cookie-cutter by any means and does not fall into any one genre of music, at times it is Indian Classical and traditional, and at others it is Drum and Bass and filmi.

Among the highlights for me is the song "Rebirth," featuring Anoushka Shankar, daughter and protégé of legendary Sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. The Punditz's subtle beat placement alongside Shankar's sitar works amazingly well, and the track eerily conjures up memories of Discovery of India, one of the songs her father did with Zakir Husain for the Gandhi soundtrack, and one of the most evocative songs I have ever heard.

Other highlights include "Khayaal" featuring the soulful voice of longtime Karsh Kale collaborater Vishal Vaid, and the last track, Hold On (Thaarey Rahiyo), with its nostalgic filmi sound.

What is so striking about the Punditz's work is their ability to not just mix elements of tradition with modernity to create the dreaded term fusion, but internalize both the tradition of Indian music with the modernity of Western beats and create the sounds of a modern India.

To listen to samples of the album click here, and click here to purchase the album from

The second album I wanted to mention is the debut release by the new trio, Niyaz (NEE-ahz),
niyaz.jpg which is made up of Azam Ali of Vas, Loga Rami Torkian from Axiom of Choice, and Grammy nominated producer/remixer Carmen Rizzo. More than just spiritual chanting to rock and roll music, Niyaz's sound blends ancient Sufi and Urdu poetry, traditional Persian instruments, and gentle and well-placed electronic beats.

Think Enya, but ethnic, and a little less new-age Yoga center, and more loungy and organic. Or as Niyaz themselves like to call it "folk music for the 21st century." Its an interesting concept, and works well at times, especially on "Allahi Allah," and "dilruba," but one that could use a bit more fleshing out. To listen for yourself, click here, and to purchase from amazon, click here.


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