The Ali Khan Band
City of Tribes (

cd 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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