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

Various Artists: Musical Explorers Series; Deben Bhattacharya, Krishna in Spring (ARC CD/DVD)

Various Artists: Musical Explorers Series; Deben Bhattacharya, Krishna in Spring (ARC CD/DVD)

The excellent archival reissue series of music and films by the late ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya (1921 – 2001) continues with this, a CD of field recordings and a 25 minute film... > Read more

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE WORLD MUSIC QUESTIONNAIRE: Ghada Shbeir

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE WORLD MUSIC QUESTIONNAIRE: Ghada Shbeir

The arc around the Mediterranean we loosely refer to as “the Middle East” boasts some astonishing voices, not the least that of Lebanese singer Ghada Shbeir whose yearning sound... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Maria Dallas: Lonely For You (1967)

Maria Dallas: Lonely For You (1967)

In the minds of many New Zealanders and on the pages of popular histories, country singer Maria Dallas was a one-hit wonder with her version of Jay Epae's very catchy Tumblin' Down. That song... > Read more

Dub Inc : So What (dub-inc.com)

Dub Inc : So What (dub-inc.com)

This French outfit – who do exactly what their band name claims – appeared in New Zealand at the 2014 Womad and were rightly acclaimed . . . although selling reggae to a Kiwi... > Read more