PERFORMER: Various artists
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 61532 2
The Indian blockbuster set GANGA is the product of several years’ collecting, superbly engineered and recorded in villages and towns the length of the river. The concept brings together a vast range of mainly folk traditions that have not made it on to disc before, and although a few items are of minimal musical interest the total impact is overwhelming. Wedding and monsoon songs, chants, dances, are treated to intensely expressive voices and virtuoso instrumental solos.
Tracks are linked by environmental sounds – water, birds, weather, work – which may strike you as romantic Indo-kitsch. Indian film music has a kitschier image than it deserves. The much-derided Bollywood industry has stayed ahead of the game in merging Indian and world pop strands into a distinctive language, though many listeners feel it has gone into terminal decline. Naushad Ali, the veteran music director, does too. I can’t share his pessimism, but certainly his own mid-century soundtracks found a golden-age balance between popular and classical elements, just as American musicals did.