Love Trap (Narada, 2003)
Described as “more beauty and more beast,” by the BBC newcomer winner, Susheela Raman, her latest release Love Trap seduces its listeners into taking a wild ride through international musical territory. The titular track with its erotically charged lyrics tossed over a tapestry of Arabic Indian exoticism certainly qualifies this album as the hottest release this summer. And don’t be surprised if the words “love trap” emerge into everyday language since this catchy phrase tells all. Love Trap is the English language version of Ethiopian songwriter Mahmoud Ahmed’s Behmen Sehbeb Letlast, which translates to “it is impossible not to love you.” And it is impossible not to love Susheela’s latest recording with its explosion of percussion, soaring vocals and gorgeous instrumentation provided by who’s who of the global music scene. The repertoire is a mix of folky-blues and a musical journey through the Carnatic tradition of southern India, where Susheela was born to Tamil parents in 1973 and where she trains with Hindustani vocalist Shruti Sadolikar.
Two of the tracks, the Bollywood classic Ye Meera Divanapan Hai with its light drums and bansuri (Indian flute) treatment and Sakhi Maro which features the musicians from Tama on kora (Tom Diakite), clay pot (Djanano Dabo) and guitar (Sam Mills), act as a by product of these musical lessons. Sam Mills, (Susheela’s husband) who produced the award-winning Salt Rain also came on board to produce Love Trap and the album was recorded at the El Cortijo studios in southern Spain. Various musical guests traveled to Spain to appear on the recording, including Afro-Beat drummer Tony Allen, tabla performer Aref Durvesh, Greek clarinetist Manos Achalinotopolous, members of Tame, flamenco pianist David Dorantes, as well as, Tuvan musicians Radik Tiolauch and Albert Kuvezin of the rock group, Yat Kha.
The songs on the album hail from ancient times or are covers of recent international pop, but all of the songs feature innovative arrangements that blend the best of India, North Africa, Mongolia and continental sounds.
The bewitching Love Trap which is sung in a five-note scale representative of Ethiopian church music (not that you would equate this song with church music), features Allen on drums and back up vocals and instrumentation that twangs with sexual intensity. Susheela’s seductive vocals are at an all-time best showing off her versatile talents. The melancholic cover of Joan Armatrading’s Save Me features guitar and tabla light and is sung in a bluesy-Indian style. While Love Trap speaks of the beginning of a love affair, Save Me comes at the end of an affair. The Indian classical songs, Amba and Manusoloni feature Tuvan musicians Radik Tiolouch (also contributes horsehead fiddle) and Albert Kuvezin along with electric guitar and light programming. Bliss begins with an Erik Satie style piano solo performed by David Dorantes and is soon joined by a swirling bansuri duet which is further embellished by Susheela’s vocals.
Also worth mentioning is the dissonant Half Shiva Half Shakti showcasing the dual drumming talents of Allen who performs syncopated jazz rhythms that are fused with Durvesh’s explosive tabla beats. Clarinetist Achalinotopolous contributes a manic performance as well. Susheela and company end the CD with a Durvesh’s tabla beat extravaganza (Blue Lily Red Lotus) and the experience in total will leave listeners breathless. Love Trap isn’t an album for the faint of heart. This is an album that will get your blood pumping, your hormones racing as well as, raising your musical aptitude.
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