Shubha Mudgal, Ursula Rucker and Business Class Refugees
No Stranger Here (EarthSync, 2012)
EarthSync’s latest offering is a real treat. Part devotional meditation, part savvy supplication for a sense of universality through music, No Stranger Here is the combined efforts of Hindustani music’s vocal force Shubha Mudgal, Philadelphia’s poet and spoken-word artist Ursula Rucker and EarthSync’s masterful Business Class Refugees headed up by Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam. Centering their collaboration around the Indian mystic and poet Kabir, No Stranger Here dazzles listeners with the hypnotic vocals of Ms. Mudgal and Ms. Rucker’s razor sharp poetry and spoken word sections against the wildly rich tapestry of the Business Class Refugees.
Mr. Sebag explains the collaboration this way, “We look at it like a film that has two major actors that tell the same story but each from his place and environment. Every song is a different story and should leave room for everyone to tell their stories in harmony. That’s what music and collaboration is all about. That is what we love doing.”
Cinematic in feel, No Strangers Here isn’t about a pretty kind of ethereal, but a grounded expansiveness that feels like flying with sweeping strings and Ms. Mudgal’s divine vocals. Rooted by Ms. Rucker’s hothouse spoken sections, many of the tracks explore a transcendental space against some spectacular electronica and lush strings arrangements.
Standout tracks include the breezy “Steadfast,” the thickly jazzy “When I Was” and the single instrumental track “Searching For You” with its hip Pat Metheny feel. There are also some real gems on this recording that include the darkly rich “A Stranger Here” full of an edgy hipness and captivating vocal work and the tracks “Above All Else” and “Outsider” with vocals by Ms. Mudgal that simply make you want to drop in and wallow about.
Drawing in Kabir’s poetry for No Stranger Here’s inspiration, EarthSync’s CEO and producer Sonya Mazumdar explains Kabir’s importance this way, “Kabir is a major reference point for Indians. He had the ability to put these massive philosophical concepts in a way that the common person, who was denied education or had very simple ways for dealing with life, could grasp perfectly. Kabir equated the love between two people to the love between an individual and God. Composers down the ages have interpreted his depth and simplicity in various musical formats.”
No Stranger Here is one of those musical wonderlands where getting lost is the whole point.
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