Johnny Kelsi and co. deliver another fine bhangra album.
Shamaila Khan 2008-03-17
The Dhol Foundation's founder, Johnny Kalsi, started out as the lead percussionist and dhol player with the bhangra band Alaap, and later toured with other World Music bands. It is these influences that are apparent in Drums & Roses, his band's third album, written and produced by Kalsi, himself.
The 12 track album is a mixture of instrumentals, which utilise bamboo flutes, guitars, the tabla and even a piano, and songs with guest singers from the UK and abroad. The album begins with a seductive Sabiha Khan on first track When You Loved Me. Sung in Hindi, her sultry vocals, combined with lyrics of lost love, are poignant.
As expected, the dhol is apparent in most of the tracks, but even the untrained ear will pick up on the variety of instruments in Gra Gan Chrioch (which translates in Gaelic to 'love with no end'). The results are both unique and outstanding. But by track four (Johnny's Drum) the band creates a startling jump when things drop straight into bhangra, which only serves to remind you of the founding music that this collection is built on.
In fact, if you're not familiar with TDF's work, then this is the sort of track you would expect to hear more of. However, it's the aforementioned global inspiration that gives Drums & Roses a far more superior sound than that of an ordinary British bhangra album. Interestingly, despite most of the tracks being upbeat, the album is essentially a mellow effort. Yet it's far from dull. It has the sort of calming effect that would de-stress even during rush hour.
The Dhol Foundation launched an academy in 1989, which now has approximately 400 students across Britain. If the music being taught there is anything like that displayed in the album, then we can be sure of an even more vibrant desi scene in the future.