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

Sa Dingding: Alive (Universal)

Sa Dingding: Alive (Universal)

Elsewhere has frequently posted Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan music recorded in the field and of earthy authenticity (or soaring spirituality). But we aren't averse to a bit of Cantonese pop,... > Read more

Various Artists: Gilles Peterson Presents Havana Cultura (Brownswood/Soutbound)

Various Artists: Gilles Peterson Presents Havana Cultura (Brownswood/Soutbound)

The global success of Buena Vista Social Club a decade ago meant some presumed the group represented the sound of Cuba -- and that shut out any notion there might be vibrant young players (or even... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE SACRED TRIANGLE; BOWIE, IGGY AND LOU 1971-1973 (Sexy Intellectual/Triton DVD)

THE SACRED TRIANGLE; BOWIE, IGGY AND LOU 1971-1973 (Sexy Intellectual/Triton DVD)

It's hard to believe but in the same year as the Velvet Underground's debut album came out, David Bowie's new single was The Laughing Gnome, a gimmick song and another desperate step in trying to... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MIDORI TAKADA: Through a glass, brightly

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MIDORI TAKADA: Through a glass, brightly

It's a given these days. The moment you write about a musician who exists in an obscure corner of the mainstream world – or has absolutely no presence there at all – then someone in... > Read more