All posts by Madanmohan Rao

Madanmohan Rao is an author and media consultant from Bangalore, and global correspondent for world music and jazz for World Music Central and Jazzuality. He has written over 15 books on media, management and culture, and is research director for YourStory Media. Madan was formerly World Music Editor at Rave magazine and RJ at WorldSpace, and can be followed on Twitter at @MadanRao.

World Music Inspired by Buddhist Philosophy

Sakya Tashi Ling Buddhist Monks – My Spirit Flies to You

The Buddhist Monks Sakya Tashi Ling – My Spirit Flies to You (Fundacion Prevain, 2006)

This is an ambitious world music album inspired by the Buddhist philosophy and musical chanting of Sakya Tashi Ling, a monastery belonging to one of four Buddhist schools from Tibet, the Sakyapa tradition. They later set up the first Buddhist monastery in Spain.

The orientation is mostly toward Western listeners, with the Buddhist chanting adding an exotic ‘Eastern’ appeal over the 14 smooth jazz and lounge tracks.

Our picks include the pleasant piece Emotions and the soaring I Wanna Fly. The music is generally a mix of pop and New Age music, architected by Sergio Medrano and Miguel González.

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Ravi Shankar’s Vision of Peace


Pandit Ravi Shankar – Vision of Peace

Pandit Ravi Shankar – Vision of Peace (Deutsche Grammophon/Universal, 2000)

This double CD showcases some of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s international prowess. The first CD has Japanese-Indian collaborative tracks featuring Pandit Ravi Shankar on sitar and Ustad Alla Rakha on tabla, accompanied by Japanese musicians Susumu Miyashita and Hozan Yamamoto on flute and string instruments. Our pick on this CD is the energetic track, Rokudan.

The second CD is more traditional, with Raaga Jogeshwari and Raaga Hameer. In sum, a fine listen for an afternoon of relaxation.

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Sheila Chandra Out on Her Own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own (Indipop, 1984, reissued by Narada//EMI in 2000)

This is a slender album by today’s standards, with 10 tracks just stretching over 40 minutes. But it is an important milestone in the musical path of Sheila Chandra, leading UK-based Indian-origin fusion artist from the 1980s.

As the liner notes explain, this was Sheila Chandra’s declaration of independence from pressure from her first label, after scoring a U.K. hit with the group Monsoon and the song, “Ever So Lonely.”


Sheila Chandra – Out on my Own, Narada reissue

Tablas, keyboards, guitar and sitars provide the backing for her strong experimental vocals. Our picks include the title track and the ambient ‘Prema;’ also check out the dreamy ‘From a Whisper.’

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Dynamic Salsa and Merengue

Son Real Orchestra – Salsa

Son Real Orchestra – Salsa (ARC Music, 20008)

The London-based Colombian band Son Real presents an excellent CD of vibrant, dynamic and very danceable salsa and merengue. The band has a funky rhythm section (percussion, piano, bass), a tight and bright brass section, and three female crooners who fill out the sound on the 13 tracks.

This is a must-have album for you Latin fans out there; our picks include the dancefloor tracks Aurorita, Corazon gitano and Ay papa ay mama. A perfect choice for your Friday and Saturday parties!

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Hot Indo-Swedish Fusion

Mynta – Hot Days

Mynta – Hot Days (Free Spirit, 2006)

This is a superb Indo-Swedish fusion band, not quite in the league of Shakti, but with a more diverse range of sounds.

Calling itself a “fusion of Nordic ice with Indian spice,” there’s a good mix of funky percussion, scatting vocals, slick guitar and soaring sax.

The two-disc set includes a CD and DVD. The Swedish lineup features Santiago Jimenez (violin), Max Åhman (guitar), Sebastian Printz-Werner (percussion) and Christian Paulin (bass). They are well matched by Fazal Qureshi (tabla) and Shankar Mahadevan (vocals).

The 15 tracks are culled from 5 previous albums. Each track is terrific, you must get this album!

Other Mynta albums available: Nandu’s Dance, Hot Madras, First Summer, Meetings in India and Indian Time.

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The Diverse Background of Jai Uttal


Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective

Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective (Free Spirit/Triloka, 2000)

Jai Uttal is a veteran musician and singer-songwriter from New York, and this album reflects his diverse background in blues, R&B, and later on Baul and Indian classical (studying sarod under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan).

The instrumentation is superb, and well showcased on the 12 tracks of this 10-year retrospective. Our picks include the dreamy piece Corner, the finger-snapping Footprints, reggae-influenced Hara Shiva Shankara, rock-driven Malkouns, jazzy devotional piece Govinda, and Petition to Ram. Check out this prolific artist’s other albums like Dial M for Mantra, Shiva Station, Pranayama, Music for Yoga, Yoga Chant and Mondo Rama.

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The New Pulse of World Fusion

ShapeShifters – The New Pulse of World Fusion

ShapeShifters – The New Pulse of World Fusion (WorldWide Records/Soundings of the Planet, 2000)

This is a largely instrumental album of world fusion music, featuring multi-instrumentalist Alain Eskinasi (of Brainscapes) on bass and guitar, Richard Hardy on wind instruments, and husband-wife team Aziz Paige on sitar and guitar and Khabira Paige on tanpura.

The album is smooth and well-textured, and the 11 tracks are a jazzy but mellow listen. We would recommend the tracks Equinox (upbeat, with fine sitar texture) and the joyful Pipers of Beltane. In sum, the album delivers what it promises: healing and ecstatic music in an East-West blend.

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Secrets of Seduction

Enigmatic Obsession – Secrets of Seduction

Enigmatic Obsession – Secrets of Seduction (FreeSpirit, 2008)

Listeners familiar with Enigma’s fusion of Gregorian chants and electronica will also appreciate this album by Enigmatic Obsession. The band features Jens Gad from Enigma (which also included Michael Cretu).

The 13 tracks of this album will appeal to fans of chillout and ambient music. The bonus track ‘Lifesign’ is superb, and we also recommend The Delta of The Red River, and Northern Horizon. Organs, guitar, flute, piano and basslines create a smooth foundation, blended with trademark soft whisperings in Spanish.

On headphones or turned up full blast on a good stereo, this is a perfect album for a late evening chill.

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Feng Shui: The Eightfold Path

Chinmaya Dunster – Feng Shui: The Eightfold Path

Chinmaya Dunster – Feng Shui: The Eightfold Path (Times Music/New Earth Records, 2000)

Chinmaya Dunster was born in England in 1954, and has studied Western and Indian classical music extensively, particularly guitar and sarod. Dunster was also part of the fusion band Terra Incognita, with Prem Joshua. He later founded the Celtic Ragas Band.

Devotees of meditation, yoga and Buddhism would love the music and the superb liner notes on this CD, which describe the associated colour, image, element, direction, and emotional quality of each of the eight tracks.

The album also features Don Lax on violin, Sambodhi Prem on guitar, John Zagando on flute, and Alistair Couper on drums. In sum, this is a good fusion of East and West, though brief at barley 45 minutes in length.

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Planet Buzz

Various Artists – Planet Buzz

Various Artists – Planet Buzz (Narada/EMI, 2004)

This is an excellent compilation of world music, put together by Global Rhythm Magazine. Handpicked by Alecia Cohen, founder and publisher of Globalrhythm.net, each of the 11 tracks is superb.

Latin sound is well represented with tracks like Juana Molina’s Quien and Estrella Morente’s At the top of Cerro de Palomares. DJ Cheb I Sabbah has an unbelievable remix of a Tamil track called Raja Vedalu. And of course the album includes the superhit Home Cooking, featuring veteran drummer Tony Allen who was part of the legendary Afrobeat band headed by Nigeria’s Fela Kuti.

In sum, a must for world music fans, and a terrific introduction to this genre.

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