Knut Reiersrud, Hans Fredrik Jacobsen, Vajra - Himalaya Blues
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Knut Reiersrud, Hans Fredrik Jacobsen, Vajra
Himalaya Blues
Grappa (

The Funky Homosapiens (as Norwegian musicians Reiersrud and Jacobsen call themselves) and Nepalese ensemble Vajra performed the music on this recording in a free concert in Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday, March 3rd, 2003.

Reiersrud and Jacobsen note on the booklet that the Nepalese music is reminiscent of the Indian and Pakistani musical traditions but is more "folky," that is, based on short, catchy melodic phrases. This can be heard on many occasions on this CD, most of which is based on traditional Nepalese tunes. Most of the tracks are instrumentals and last somewhere between three and six minutes and this is quite rare for the classic traditions of the region. The exception is the epic signature piece "Himalaya Blues," which lasts around 12 minutes and closes the record. "Mother Himalaya" is sung in English, and it is an adaptation of the African American standard; it is given a Nepalese treatment and reiterated as "She's Got The Whole World In Her Hands." It's a wonderful track and if you imagine hard enough and can rise above the jealousy you'll obviously feel, you can picture yourself in that Square, listening to it, enjoying the rarefied air and glancing at the magnificent vistas. It must have been quite an experience.

What stands out most of all, even in comparison to similar projects like Greeks & Indians or the Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali with the Temple of Sound, is the incredible fit between The Funky Homosapiens and Vajra. This is not a question of the two groups taking turns in responding to the material but of assaulting it from both sides at once (as on "Sylvartun" and "Loknes"). The result is very accessible, yet retains most of the power of the traditional music. This can endear this record even to newcomers to the nuances and idiosyncrasies of ethnic music.

It is a pity that the liner notes about the songs are only in Norwegian (although the notes from the artists are translated), as the information I could make out seemed to be most interesting. All in all, though, there is a lot to enjoy in this record, whether you are at zero altitude or sky-high. The Funky Homosapiens and Vajra have made a recording that seems ready to stand the test of time. - Nondas Kitsos

CD available from cdRoots

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