Virgin Records; Music CD; Rs. 295
‘Fiery Drums', a fusion dance album by Bangalore-based Ricky Kej, promises “international sound from an Indian spring”. The premise — electronica and trance music combined with alaap and Indian folk instruments — seems packed with potential. And the album does deliver in fits and starts. Unfortunately, it flounders on a conceptual level, displaying a lack of clarity in its musical vision that ultimately lets it down.
The album opens promisingly enough with ‘Prance', a lively number that combines thumping beats with Carnatic alaap. ‘Dub Bol', which follows, is arguably the best track of ‘Fiery Drums', its mixture of rapid konnakol, electronica and Indian folk drums creating a fine sense of mood. This is one of the occasions when fusion works well in this album.
The same can't be said for pieces such as ‘African Idli', a confused combination of random African chants, a tinny-sounding shehnai-like Indian instrument, and some dholak and harmonium thrown in for good measure. What is the effect Kej is going for here? What is the idea behind combining these sounds? Nothing, including the strange title, gives you any clue. ‘Tandav' is similarly frustrating. The name suggests one mood, while the track itself — a mishmash of Arab-esque sounds and Indian alaap — meanders off in another direction. Still others such as ‘Dance of Fate' and ‘A Myth' are rather generic dance tracks, and fail to make much of an impression.
The album redeems itself somewhat with ‘South Indian Surprise', which has Bhutto on the flute. The fusion of a Carnatic tune with Western percussion isn't particularly new, but the flute introduces some much-needed melodic motifs in the album, and works well with the trance elements. ‘Madras State of Mind' is even better, an energetic piece with plenty of attitude. It has a certain Kollywood style to it, with some typically Chennai whistling and koothu beats woven in, and comes together well over all.
This album is a mixed bag, but is worth a dekko for desi dance music fans.