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Album Review

After a breakthrough debut with Extraordinary Rendition, San Francisco's Rupa Marya and her band of musical misfits returned in 2009 with Este Mundo, an album formed in ways around a more singular cultural core. The musicality of the group is without question — the players jump into formation at the drop of a hat, and can alternately swing together or clash as they devolve into a frenzy of excited improvisation. There are still the elements of Gypsy jazz, the elements of Indian classical music, and the Argentinean milongas and tango pieces that were present in their previous album. However, there's a stronger tie both thematically and musically with Mexico here. The lyrics, largely in Spanish, deal strongly with the displacement and danger inherent in border-crossing, and the music takes on a casual norteño sound with its reliance on the accordion and bass. Even the pieces with a theoretical Andalusian or Argentinean pattern end with a bit of a country feel thanks to some violin playing that verges on fiddle territory. The group makes a point of social statement within its music, and showcases cultural diversity whenever possible. At times, the ethnic portions can seem a bit ill-fitted (and worse when a stray rapper is enlisted to juxtapose against more traditional fare), but the full album is a worthwhile one. Transitions from raga to klezmer to chanson are rarely so fluid. While the music's goals or directions may never be entirely understood, you can still enjoy the sound.

Biography

Formed: San Francisco, CA

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s

Although Rupa & the April Fishes are based in San Francisco, CA, their music is a specifically locale-free style of pan-culturalism, with lead singer and songwriter Rupa Marya singing not only in English but also in French, Spanish, Hindi, and the Roma language of the Gypsies. Marya was born near San Francisco, but her Indian-born parents traveled quite a bit, and she was raised not only in California but also in northern India and France. Although the study of medicine was Marya's main priority...
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Este Mundo, Rupa & The April Fishes
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