Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Trilok Gurtu & The Frikyiwa Family

I know little of Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu's career to date and suspect, with names like David Gilmore, John McLaughlin, even Robert Miles, cropping up in his biography, his talents have been co-opted by the rather dull, virtuosic global music scene too often. But his recent album, "Farakala" produced by Frederic Galliano and featuring the Frikyiwa Family, is one of the most interesting world crossover records to arrive this year. Given that we only seem to cope with one world music hit each summer - the ubiquitous Manu Chao-produced Amadou & Mariam record was last year's surely - this will probably prove too unmediated to fill that role. But, it deserves a wider audience than the usual late night BBC Radio crowd.

Working with musicians from the southern Malian village of Farakala, Gurtu looks for the junctures between his native Indian style and the circulatory rhythms of Mali. Like Damon Albarn's attempts to merge dub with the local style on the surprisingly successful "Mali Music" project, for the most part the location exerts the strongest influence through the easy fluency of the local musicians and the unique timbre of the instruments. Where Gurtu's rhythms take over - the scat vocals and tabla rhythms that emerge halfway through "Doukhontou" - its hardly seamless. But he brings a jazz-literate experimentation to proceedings and Galliano's unfussy production encourages the beatific grace of the music to shine. (On the latter note, fans of Detroit techno might even find similarities between the weightless groove of tracks like "Mil-jul" and "Swapan" and the music of labels from Red Planet to Delsin).

Finally its a great introduction to the gentle and hypnotic timbres of Malian instruments, most of which owe their sound to the dried and hollowed gourd fruit, used as a resonator in everything from keyboard instruments to drums. Gurtu plays balafon (a xylophone with 18-21 keys cut from redwood and suspended in a bamboo frame with gourd resonators - in the picture), water calabash (an overturned floating drum, i think), gourd drums and shekere (a gourd surrounded by a net of beads).

Unsurprisingly, it was the French shops, Crocodiscs in Paris and Paris Jazz Corner that alerted us to this one - a great find.


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