Jerome Blakeney 2009
It's a long way from humble beginnings as general gofer for Mark Hill and his Artful Dodger team via writing and production chores for Liberty X. The Lost Souls is no ephemeral pop project and certainly goes some way further than Niraj Chag's last excellent album, Along The Dusty Road. The Lost Souls hopefully represents Chag's move towards household name status.
In mixing folk guitars, classical strings and all the Indian folk instrumentation he can lay his hands on, Niraj does approach the same kind of cultural melting pot that erstwhile mentor, Nithin Sawhney has given us. Yet, for some reason, his lack of too many 'trendy' tropes makes The Lost Souls a more palatable treat than Sawhney's more recent work. Only on Trace does he up the d'n'b factor a tad too much. The rest of this album stands alone as Chag's very own. Using various guest vocalists (most notably the beautiful voice of Japjit Kaur) he's crafted a wonderful amalgamation of styles and languages all wrapped together with a rapidly maturing style obviously drawing on his recent soundtrack work.
While he does occasionally stray into coffee table chill territory on The Sin Eater it's rescued by the lovely flute of Sudhir Khadekar. Overall, The Lost Souls has a point to make: the role of the heart over the mind; the plight of the dispossessed in a world beset by religious and intellectual divisions. As the translation of A Thousand Books says, ''You study the words of a thousand books, but never did you study yourself''.
It sounds ridiculously hyperbolic, but this album really is full of heart and soul. Chag's closing words in the sleeve notes are the key text. This is the work of a humble musician who cares for nothing but truth and to acknowledge his place in the universal order. He mentions the often hand-to-mouth life of a professional artist. On this evidence he should have food on his table for some time to come. We should all be grateful, for The Lost Souls speaks to us all. Simply gorgeous...