Just in time to reap some of the love for Slumdog Millionaire, Putumayo’s latest is a love note to the varied and joyous sounds of India. We’ve got a stew of Bollywood outrageousness, folk and classical music, some pop and Carnatic vocalizing. Although there is no overall theme and some of the tracks do not transition well into the next, the compilation presents a nice snapshot of the mix of styles and influences from that enigmatic country.
Bollywood is well represented by Bombay Jayshri’s “Zara Zara,” film composer A.R. Rahman’s “Tere Bina,” and actress/singer Rajeshwari Sachdev’s “Maavan Te Tiiyan.” More interesting to me, though, are the wide array of strong, passionate vocalists, which include Swati Natekar, Kailash Kher, and Kiran Ahluwalia. Whether it pop, ghazals, or devotional tunes, the vocals stand out on this set for their depth of emotion.
Musically, guitarists Eduardo Niebla (whose Spanish guitar plays a mean but pretty counterpoint on “Ganesha”) and the more jazzy Sanjay Divecha add extra subtlety and groove to traditional Indian instruments like Bansuri flute, tabla, and santoor, a hammered dulcimer.
Putumayo Presents India, which is packaged with a booklet of vibrant photos, is another great entry in the now classic world-music series by Putumayo. (A portion of sales will go toward funding arts activities in India.) The compilation comes on the heels of the more tightly focused Acoustic France, but this is a more wide open affair. The almost dizzying variety of styles, coupled with passionate and soulful musicianship, make this one of the brightest and most enjoyable in the series.