With over five hours of music, this is probably all the Alaap you’ll ever need.
Jon Lusk 2009-06-05
Way back in 1977, in London’s Southall, Channi Singh started the group Alaap, adapting Punjabi folklore for a modern British Asian audience. The style soon became known as bhangra, and for much of the next two decades this pioneer group were among its leading exponents, releasing twelve official albums between 1979 and 1998.
Eleven of those albums are rather unequally represented on this four-disc compilation, which concentrates on their early career. With over five hours of music, this is probably all the Alaap you’ll ever need. Maybe more.
The one and only Asha Bhosle graces Chham Chham Nachdi Phiran, which kicks off disc one – the title track from Alaap’s eighth album, released in 1990. By that time, the group had been placing tracks in Bollywood movies for several years, selling expat Asian music back to the subcontinent in a coals-to-Newcastle style.
The other playback singer featured is Anuradha Pawdwal, who makes a very welcome appearance on the title track of the album Na Dil Mang Ve, recorded in India in 1991. Several songs from this album were used in the film Pagri Sambhal Jatta, but unfortunately this is the only one we get. And there’s nothing at all from Sabhe Ghat Ram Bole (1987) the group’s ‘religious’ album.
Contrast this with the representation of Alaap’s first three albums and it’s a rather skewed picture we’re getting of the group’s development.
As the order of the compilation isn’t chronological (with the only rationale seemingly to include as many of the really familiar hits such as Bhabiye Ni Bahbiye on disc one), you soon get a feel for the chopping and changing arrangement/production styles of each era.
The delightfully understated santoor, strummed acoustic guitar and accordion of the early years has given way to aggressive syn drums and histrionic synth stabs by the mid eighties, and it’s surprising how much more dated these sound.
The epic Boliyan, which closes disc three, clocks in at nearly 20 minutes and is a bit of an endurance test for even hardcore fans. Some judicious editing might have made this a more appealing retrospective, but for 15 quid, it’s not such a bad deal.