I picked up a copy of the Basement Bhangra CD by DJ Rekha and wanted to say a few words about it. But for some interesting and no-doubt more informed reviews, I suggest checking out The Orlando Weekly and Sepia Mutiny. The gist that I get from these reviews - especially the one from Orlando - is that the CD is basically good but could have been more diverse and surprising. They say this based on their experience with the actual Basement Bhangra event, which I never made it to (lame as that might sound – though I’ve almost been there a few times). I have heard some other sets by Rekha and I know that she can stretch farther in crossing borders or genres. (And by the way, I found a pretty good example of that over at PS1 Radio.) But all that having been said, no one is going to say that this is a bad compilation, as there is a bunch of worthwhile stuff here.
I particularly like a couple of songs that occur back-to-back about two-thirds through the CD, “Dhol, Dark and Handsome” by The Dhol Foundation (whom I’ve heard for quite some time and which I know is partly descended from Transglobal Underground), and “Devi Rhythm” by Eddie STATS and Dinesh Boaz (don’t know as much about these guys, but this is pretty good). As the titles suggest, these tracks hit you with A LOT of fine percussion.
I also like a song earlier in the comp (which has a very long title that’s hard to type) by Gunjan and Tigerstyle. I really like Gunjan’s vocals, which are equally nice as she drifts between a western r&b/pop style and more traditional Indian singing. I think she sounds very sweet and I look forward to hearing more from her.
As an aside, though, lest people think that I’m always going to fall for the next Desi female vocalist (whether singer or rapper), I should add that I’m not so crazy about the ubiquitous (as Mutiny put it) Hard Kaur or the two songs that she has close to the end of this compilation. But, then again, maybe I don’t mind her so much… Her voice is pretty monotonous and the lyrics are quite trivial (something that I admittedly wouldn’t have been able to notice had she done like most of the people on this comp and rapped in a South Asian language), but she keeps a good enough beat and can be kind of funny.
And this CD closes out in a very decent manner… I like the next-to-last piece by DJ Rekha and Dave Sharma, and I wish there had been more Sharma here. The final track, by Malkit Singh, is quite interesting – probably at least in part because it’s been remixed by Bally Sagoo, who can be counted on to do interesting stuff (as I’ve known for a while – he is someone I have heard for ages).
I imagine that I will play the Basement Bhangra CD a bunch of times in the near future, especially on the subway. If I/we somehow expected (even) more, maybe it’s because there’s been such tremendous hype around this and we’ve been waiting so long for a well-known bhangra comp to come out of the U.S., especially from one particular DJ in New York City. And because some people who actually have made it to Rekha’s Basement Bhangra nights say she really is wilder there. I guess I should drag myself out to one of those soon - considering it’s over ten years since they started…