Swami Swami - 53431 Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

They appear to have almost invented an entirely new type of sound.

Vibhuti Patel 2009

The collective known as Swami was formed in 1997 by brothers Simon and Diamond Duggal.  The latter is the only remaining original member, nowadays known mainly by his pseudonym of DJ Swami.

53431 – tilt the numbers to make out the name Swami – is a tagged as the Birmingham group’s greatest hits, taking tracks from previous releases such as DesiRock and Equalize.  The band’s name is an abbreviation of “So Who Am I?” It’s a question the album seems to be asking itself – and one which it answers with flair.

On paper, the sheer number of genres tied together in this collection shouldn’t work - bhangra, electronica, drum and bass, dhol beats, soaring vocals and MC lyrics to name but a few. Yet to the ears it’s simply a marvel. Certain tracks stand out above others, as is often the case with compilation affairs. Electro Jugni, with its unforgiving bassline, gives the album a pounding start and the anthemic DesiRock recycles a Bollywood riff in the best possible way. Hey Hey seamlessly combines soulful female vocals in English, earthy male vocals in Punjabi, a toe-tapping beat and a jazzy horn accompaniment that Mark Ronson would do well to take a cue or two from. And if that weren’t enough, Homage marries a classical Indian undertone with the sort of dirty dance track that would make The Prodigy green with envy.

To anyone concerned that a greatest hits collection may somehow spell an ending, fear not: DJ Swami and company tease us with two brand new tracks. The bittersweet, aptly named Sugarless, is full of attitude, and Tonight features soulful vocals underpinned by electronic synth.

The line-up of Swami has undergone many changes over the years, but there’s a consistency to the quality of music despite their evolution. To call them a bhangra band doesn’t really do justice to what they’re capable of delivering; they appear to have almost invented an entirely new type of sound, rooted in India but branching far beyond with ease. And this album not only celebrates all of Swami’s musical achievements to date, but provides the promise that they still have originality to offer.

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