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Cosmic Jugalbandi

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Album Review

Fans of vintage roots reggae know the Suns of Arqa as the band that backed up Prince Far I on his excellent live album of 1982. But their usual domain is an unusual fusion of South Asian and Western music that tends to steer clear of the punk and dancehall extremes of the Asian Underground movement in favor of a more contemplative style that comes across as a bit more respectful toward the religious and classical traditions from which it draws. Which is not to say that the Suns of Arqa shy away from laying down a heavy groove. On Cosmic Jugalbandi, the group takes material from five traditional ragas, and each track begins with the flute and/or violin's traditional arrhythmic exposition of the raga's scale. But at the point where a rhythmic pulse usually enters the picture and the tabla or mridangam would begin embellishing the proceedings with intricate rhythmic variations, the Suns of Arqa add a dark, melodic reggae bassline and a few shards of dubbed-up trap drums. It's an unusual and highly effective approach, and one that doesn't vary much from track to track, creating a consistent but never boring listening experience. The album's final track, however, finishes off the program with an aggressively dub-inflected mix by Youth. A must for fans of the Asian Underground scene, modern bhangra, jungle, or experimental dub.


Formed: 1979 in London, England

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The world music collective Suns of Arqa was led by founder and mentor Michael Wadada; since the release of the group's 1979 debut LP Revenge of the Mozabites, some 200 members from across the globe passed through its ranks, many of them met by Wadada during his extensive travels and sharing his interest in indigenous, tribal, folk and classical music traditions. In addition to subsequent LPs including 1980's Wadada Magic, 1982's India? and 1984's Ark of the Arqans, the Suns of Arqa regularly backed...
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Cosmic Jugalbandi, Suns of Arqa
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