World Massala (Ojo Records OJO005, 2010)
Upon inquiry, my Indian-born office mate informed me that the spices used to create massala can and do vary from recipe to recipe. Similarly, the Portuguese band called Terrakota did not rely upon set ingredients to cook up their World Massala album. And not for one moment should you assume that the taste one track leaves in your mouth is going to be the same as the next.
Recorded in the unlikely juxtapositioned locales of Lisbon, Portugal and Ladakh, India, World Massala has sonic evidence of the latter (particularly in the band’s use of sitar) and not much else that’s predictable in the mix. For just as smoothly as the title track slips from Indian majesty into a reggae pulse, “Kay Kay” deftly channels Senegalese m’balax, “Ilegal” touches down in the midst of a heady Brazilian carnival, “I Am” offers an even deeper Jamaican heartbeat, “Slow Food” serves up nourishing Afrobeat, and so on.
Far from coming across as simply a party band jumping haphazardly from one style to another, Terrakota has the chops and the smarts to really know what they’re singing and playing in addition to the good sense to include songs like the township-ish “Ualelepo” and lulling “Ne Djarabi” that are not as readily classifiable. Lead singer Romi can be as sprightly, serious or sensual as the music demands, and the multi-instrumental skills of her mates are crisp and accomplished without ever sounding flashy or indulgent.
There’s world music, and then there are true world music bands; count Terrakota as the real deal, and if a set of grooves that are both celebratory and engaging is an appealing prospect, get this disc.
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