This is just the merest sampling of the huge amount of music available east of NATO territory... I can hardly claim that this is a comprehensive, or even representative, sample of what's available. Nonetheless, these are some of the albums which have leapt out at me over the last few years -- hopefully you will find these records as striking as I have. And keep checking this site for more reviews-- it is sure to expand over time. This is the first page covering the letter "R"...
This Spanish trio is one of the most creative and eclectic world music bands of recent vintage, although, admittedly, they do have a bit of a prefab, made-for-NPR-and-Borders sheen to them. On this disc they shy away a bit from the slightly ambient leanings of earlier albums, and delve deeper into the Arabic shrillness of Spain's Moorish heritage. There's also still plenty of crosscultural intersplicing, with hints of Celtic, Asian and African music throughout, as well as an ever-present, ever-clever bit of Appalachian banjo picking and country guitar which pops up from time to time. It's a deftly crafted, seamlessly produced album, which balances gritty traditionalism and modern sleekness with admirable grace. A very accessible version of Arabic music, and an album that can grow on you, quite quickly... check it out!
A driving, dynamic live set that captures a more aggressive side of Radio Tarifa's sound, in particular a tilt toward jazz-tinged improvisation, and an emphasis on individual virtuosity and impassioned, in-the-moment performances. Personally, I'm more drawn to the moody melodic side that the group shows on its studio albums, but this album does show that they can summon a lot of live-action firepower as well, and aren't just another pretty-sounding world-music studio project. If you're a Tarifa fan already, you'll probably want to check this out.
Dr. N. Rajam "The Enchanting Violin Of Dr. N. Rajam" (Oriental Records)
Apparently, this is the first solo recording of Dr. N. Rajam, a master of Hindustani music who developed new fingering and bowing techniques in order to bring the full range of Asiatic tonalities into play. The result is sublime: Rajam has a gorgeous, supple sound that is richly soulful, and quite captivating. Backing her on this early recording (wish the CD mentioned the exact date!) is tabla master Zakir Hussain, himself the model of restraint. Compared to some later works, Rajam goes a little overboard in a few places, notably on the first raga, "Mian Malhar," where she fiddles around in the squeekiest part of the her instrument's register. Overall, though, this is another fine album by this sublime performer, well worth picking up!
Dr. N. Rajam "Violin" (EMI, 1985)
Another absolutely gorgeous violin music from Dr. Smt. N. Rajam, one of the most striking female musicians I know of working in the Indian classical tradition. Her doctorate is in music, for a comparative study of Hindustani and Karnatic music, both of which she has ably mastered. If you're looking for something beautiful and mellow, then I strongly recommend Rajam's work -- I have yet to hear an album that I didn't greatly enjoy, and this is one of the best.
Dr. N. Rajam "Maestro's Choice" (Music Today, 1994)
Rajam just gets better and better as time goes by, her soulfulness and mastery of the violin maturing like a fine wine. I wish I could buy a whole case, but the handful of albums I've found so far have been rapturous! This is a spookily transcendent instrumental album, with Rajam delving into the lower register of the violin in order to capture the drone of Indian classical tonalities. If you like music that makes the hairs stand up on the back your neck and your skin tingle, then check this disc out! Highly recommended.
Dr. N. Rajam "Vocals Through Violin" (Omi, 1996)
With minimal percussive backup, this disc features Rajam in a starker mode, playing practically solo in a style that's more improvisatory and searching than contemplative and evocative. While this doesn't have the same lulling, ethereal softness of other albums, it certainly highlights her virtuousity and musical depth. Akram Khan plays tabla, a quiet, minimal accompaniment that calls little attention to itself.
Hossam Ramzy "El Sultan: Classical Egyptian Dance" (Arc Music, 2003)
Another set of lively, inventive bellydance instrumentals, from the modern master of the style. Honestly, it's a little hard for me to differentiate this from other albums, but I can tell it's good stuff.
Asian & Islamic Albums: Letter "S"
Asian Music Index
World Music Index