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Extraordinary Rendition

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Album Review

It tends to be the case that the more motley the crew performing on an album, the more motley the music. And yet, there are times and groups that mix their divergent backgrounds and instruments perfectly. California seems to be a breeding ground for this type of successful fusion (War and Ozomatli, for example). Here, a collective of musicians from San Francisco combine for a series of songs in French, Spanish, English, and Hindi, all under the leadership of multiculturalist (and doctor) Rupa Marya. The songs seem to be based mostly in French traditions, but with a twist. Chanson has a hold on much of the proceedings, but there are shanties thrown in, political protest songs and sentiments throughout, and a soft, flowing Spanish delivery that can be pulled out when chanson isn't enough for the moment. The key here is in the modernization of the old sounds, though. An Argentine milonga may form the base of a piece, but a thumping guitar riff keeps it fresh. A gentle French love song is kept awake by a shimmering violin straight out of a Piazzolla composition. Although Rupa is at the front of the band throughout, it's probably the instrumentalists who contribute the bulk of the sound, with accordions, string jazz, and an occasional cello riff forming not only the foundation for the music, but much of the ornamentation. This is contemporary art music, elements of world music, jam bands, and street music thrown in for good measure. Maybe a bit too eclectic for some listeners, but certainly eclectic enough to keep the average jaded listener intrigued.


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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Extraordinary Rendition, Rupa & The April Fishes
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