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Asia Classics 1: Dance Rajah Dance - The South Indian Film Music of Vijaya Anand

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Album Review

Dance Raja Dance is a collection of South Indian film music from the composer and music director Vijaya Anand. The album is set off by the quirky "Dancing Is Beautiful," a slinky dance number with blatant infusions of electronic drums, a groovy bassline, a male-female vocal exchange that never locks into harmony, and a positively unexpected sample of '60s fuzz guitar. One might be provoked to buy the album after hearing this infectious fling on a worldbeat radio program. The remainder of the album is less fresh and unique, but no less musical — mostly a mixture of dramatized soundtrack pieces and illustrative five-minute themes, with recurring electronic drums and synths. The seeming formality of traditional Eastern singing adds character when set against the more modern production. "Desire Soars Up High," with it's maxed-out yet formalized vocals results in an attractive film noir quality. But for the most part, one will not escape the overtly '80s production, and will surely be surfeited of synthesizers by the end. Never lacking texture, there is a constant traffic of various instruments, swiftly moving between "synthesizers, jazzy brass, tablas, guitars, violins, etc.," though the boiling energy of the album offers little respite or contemplation, much like a Broadway soundtrack at times. So perhaps better than the music are the rich and narrative (and educational) liner notes, which put the entire album into perspective, and any critical, spoiled listener into their place. "For 60 years, Indian cinema has provided hundreds of millions of South Asians with an escape from heat, dust, and poverty into a fantasy world of castles and cabarets, of mansions, and millionaires." Consequently, movie music such as this is the pop music of India, and it is understood how attributes of Western pop have been "deconstructed," and defined in the terms that suit the culture. With song titles that enforce the obvious presence of universal ideals, this album is a good window into Indian pop culture. ~ Lisa M. Smith, Rovi


Genre: World

Years Active: '90s

Vijaya Anand (born Jude Matthew) is one of the top composers of music for the films of India. Since 1982, Anand (whose adopted name means "victory and ecstasy") has composed the scores of numerous movies in the Tamil and Taluga languages and has recorded in the Kannada language, which he does not speak. While his music is rooted by ancient Indian melodies, his use of modern instrumentation including electric guitar and synthesizers allows him to bridge the traditional and the contemporary sounds...
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