Compilasian, The World of Indipop (Narada World, 2003)
The release of Narada World’s Compilasian (The World of Indipop) comes as more of a sign of changes to come in the record industry than as the cutting edge music it boast. For those readers not aware of the Indipop label, it is a cottage industry label created by producer Steve Coe who is also Sheila Chandra’s husband. Narada World recently licensed Indipop catalogue, including Sheila Chandra’s Indipop releases. And with the release of Compilasian, itself a compilation of unreleased tracks of the groups Monsoon, Sheila Chandra, The Ganges Orchestra, Jhalib and East West, comes with a piracy protection device, called Copy Control. Only time will tell if this device actually puts more money in the hands of recording artists or acts as a trigger for more paranoia in the world. The Copy Control actually comes with its own player and a symbol reflective of the big brother that is watching you. This could cause discomfort in even the most innocent record buyer, especially coming at a time when people believe that the government too is watching their every move. And by the way, as a journalist, I am here to get the word out on musicians and I do not condone piracy. However, I will also say that there is too much fear in the world and I am disappointed that so many establishments succumb to fear instead of spreading love on the planet. Trust is a derivative of love. Protection and security are derivatives of fear (a gentle reminder).Now that I have released my reservations for this technology, I will get on with the review of this compilation. According to the CD liner notes, Steve Coe, small, but influential label has enjoyed three decades of fun and independence while introducing the world to its most popular vocalist, Sheila Chandra. Indipop receives credit for being the forerunner of the Asian fusion music fostered in the UK. Steve and the musicians who recorded on his projects modernized Indian music so that Western ears could relate to it and Western feet could dance to it. However, having grown up in an extremely mainstream community where I heard and appreciated Ravi Shankar’s ragas it’s difficult for me to understand why anyone would need to modernize Indian music.
Fortunately, the musicians on the recording also chose to explore new musical territory that married studio wizardry with the essence of Indian music. And these musicians have a lot of fun blazing musical trails and taking advantage of the liberation provided to them when working with a small and experimental label. And in fact, Chandra’s innovative songwriting and lush vocals matured out of these experiments. The tracks feel more like a musical laboratory than actual songs. Phrases are often repeated similar to mantras, on the track, Strange Minaret, Sheila sings backwards recalling the Beatles White album. Outtakes for Crescent Silver Scythe and Ever So Lonely have been rehashed and a few other surprises crop up on the compilation. 11 (a number with spiritual inclinations that comes up a lot in my life), provides nature sounds, a moody organ and Sheila’s lovely vocals. In the end, Compilasian will take its listeners on an unusual inner journey, complete with a soundtrack that promises to expand frontiers.