The Ali Khan Band
Zindagi is the Urdu word for life, and like life, this CD has its share of unexpected twists and turns. Just when it seems settled in for a set of Asian-influenced light pop, things change. An ecstatic Qawwali vocal cry here, a bit of rap there. Clearly this is a hard band to pin down. "Mast Kalander" comes closest to the UK variety of Asian underground you might already be familiar with. But even this track works a jazz saxophone in with the drums, electronic and otherwise. "Bhairagi Jungle" is even more driving and urgent, but uses congas and a flamenco guitar. "Deem Dana" covers ground that's already been trampled to death by Bill Laswell's crew. "Gorak Kalyan" induced Dissidenten flashbacks, and "Piyar Piyar" features tabla-fueled exotica/hip hop with guitars reminiscent of vintage Tones on Tail.
In short, this is a veritable grab bag of disparate, well-worn ethnic influences and overtones, clearly crafted for American ears that have aged a bit. And while it might not score a 10 on the ol' fresh-o-meter, it did remind me of what got me into world music so many years ago. - Eric Iverson
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