Various Artists: Music of the Santal Tribe (ARC Music)

 |   |  1 min read

Surup Saren: Banam
Various Artists: Music of the Santal Tribe (ARC Music)

At Elsewhere we've observed as recently as earlier this year -- in a review regarding the Taranaki Womad -- how much festival-programmed "world music" has become just percussion-based dance to get people on their feet . . . with the inevitable fall-back position to a reggae rhythm.

Never fails to appeal and appease, but increasingly does not impress.

I've never thought for one minute that world music should be some ethno-correct thing and notions of "authentic music" are plainly absurd.

Just as people in Third World countries should have access to clean water and good health -- and Levis and iPhones if they want them -- then musicians from all parts of the globe should be allowed to do exactly what they want.

It's just that if they want to do reggae then they might need to know the world is a bit awash with the same boring old reggae tropes.

All of which is to say that this collection is refreshingly raw because these are field recordings made by musicologist and filmmaker Deben Bhattacharya (who died in 2001) in North East India in 1954 and 1973.

They allow us to eavesdrop on the recent past. and a time before reggae and electric instruments dominated, back to a time -- not that long ago -- where flute, single-string fiddle and simple drums provide the accompaniment to the singing of the Santal villagers.

These are religious, wedding and festival songs, and they are placed in their cultural and religious context by the typically useful, pointed liner notes.

This is certainly not an album for everyone, in fact it certainly isn't for you if you go to a Womad expecting to do your interpretive dance moves.

But this is "world music" as it used to be . . . and there's not a percussion-based uplifting dance groove, dub remix or reggae-style song anywhere in earshot.

It's a refreshing reminder of how music can so integral to people's lives, and how musicians did what they did because they were expected to in the village . . . and not because they had a CD or t-shirt to sell. Or a career that needed taking care of.


Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   World Music articles index

SHIVKUMAR SHARMA INTERVIEWED (2012): Answering the master's call

SHIVKUMAR SHARMA INTERVIEWED (2012): Answering the master's call

Very few musicians could claim to have not only changed the musical direction and possibilities of their chosen instrument, but of also of having played a key role in how that instrument was... > Read more

Various: Marabi Africa 2 (Marabi)

Various: Marabi Africa 2 (Marabi)

The first compilation Marabi Africa won plaudits at Elsewhere because, if nothing else, Marabi was the label which brough the great Malouma to world attention -- and so this sequel commands... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER CHRIS BOURKE on a moving doco about an influential recording studio

GUEST WRITER CHRIS BOURKE on a moving doco about an influential recording studio

In 1967 Aretha Franklin went from the sophisticated studios of New York to a backwater in Alabama and finally had the hit that made her career: I Never Loved a Man. Arriving at the studio,... > Read more

Joy Division: Still

Joy Division: Still

Although somewhat dismissed by audiophiles for the uneven sound across the unreleased studio recordings, previously available tracks and live recordings (some very lo-fi), this Joy Division... > Read more