Pop Life

The Whole Wide World: Putumayo Presents: India

Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: India


With Slumdog Millionaire's recent sweep at this year's Oscars, the music of India has become more and more present on our airwaves - a slow trend that began four decades ago when George Harrison first introduced Ravi Shankar's ragas to Western audiences in the late '60s.

On this new Putumayo release, we get a few examples of what is going on in that music scene in recent years, like Niraj Chag's electronic-tinged "Khwaab" and Bombay Jayashiri's lounge-friendly "Zara Zara." Slumdog fans will certainly recognize A.H. Rahman, who appears here with "Tere Bina," one of the countless songs he has written for Bollywood films over the years.

Those who prefer more traditional sounds will enjoy Satish Vyas' "Homeward Journey" and classical flutist Deepak Ram's "Ganesha," which both serve as a contrast to the collection's more modern recordings. But Western influences are also acknowledged.

For instance, Canadian-born Kiran Ahluwalia blends traditional vocals with jazz and pop tendencies on "Vo Kuch," while Susheela Raman borrows from Latin sounds to enrich her beautiful ballad "Nagumomo."

To complete the whole experience, the label is also releasing a companion book entitled India: A Cultural Journey, a beautifully illustrated work that gives us a glimpse of this culturally rich but - to many of us - still-undiscovered nation.

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Ernest Barteldes