“World Ambient Music” is not a label calculated to set the pulse racing and it has been applied – or perhaps misapplied – to this album. There is a mesmeric quality to the rolling guitar patterns of Ali Farka Touré and the solo kora of Toumani Diabaté but I suggest that anyone who labels them “ambient” is betraying a lack of understanding of the cultures from which the music sprang.
Arooj Aftab is a singer from Lahore, now living in New York, who wrote or co-wrote with guitarist Bhrigu Sahni the five tracks on her debut album. While it is rooted in Pakistan’s traditional music, Bird Under Water also displays its western influences. There are drums, electric guitar, accordion and a trumpet and occidental melodies cropping up in such songs as ‘Lullaby’. There is also a sitar and the beautiful sound of a bansuri on the opening ‘Man Kunto Maula’. There are also sudden changes of style within a track so that ‘Aey Na Balam’, for example, allows the sub-continental instruments free rein for a minute before Arooj’s voice and Bhrigu’s acoustic guitar gather the track together.
Arooj’s style is reminiscent of Sheila Chandra but without, on this evidence at least, Sheila’s remarkable vocal power. Bird Under Water is, however, a beautiful record full of musical twists and turns and an imaginative mix of musical cultures.
Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/aroojaftabmusic
This is an old video of a track from Bird Under Water, ‘Aey Na Balam’:
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