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Christmas Curry: Worthy of Seconds

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November 2003
Christmas Curry: Worthy of Seconds

Although the marriage of Indian and Western musical instruments to create Fusion compositions is not a novel idea, Christmas Curry, offers an innovative synergy of Christmas music produced with musical instruments from both the Indian subcontinent and the West. The album loaded with exciting virtuoso compositions and musicianship.

This showcase of holiday cheer is the brainchild of Stanley Sundar Vasa, an Indian American who resides in Birmingham, Alabama. Vasa produced this CD to raise funds to help the less fortunate in India, and also assist some economically disadvantaged schools in the United States. For this album, he teams up with renowned music director, G. Anand, composer and conductor, Dr. S. Manibarathi, and several of India's recognized film musicians to create a distinctly Indian sound to twelve holiday favorites.

These compositions highlight many of the popular, devotional, and regional musical styles of India, including but not limited to Mangalam, Bhajan, Dandia, and Kawwali. Vasa's talented ensemble of musicians interpret the Little Drummer Boy as a brisk Bhangra (!) song and do an outstanding job turning O Come All Ye Faithful into an inspiring Carnatic piece. The best selection on the album is the group's rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing in which this Christmas classic is transformed into a Bhajan-style composition. The recording features a soothing interplay between the bamboo flute, sitar, and mridangam.

Other standout cuts include We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Long Time Ago and Jingle Bells. Joy to the World, which opens the album, is an interesting santoor, sitar, and tabla arrangement that could easily become a new holiday standard.

Although the album is primarily an ensemble experience, throughout there are fine solo slots. Noteworthy among these are the brilliant sarangi solo of What Child is This? and the rich shehnai solo on Angels We Have Heard On High. Each soloist is allowed the creative freedom to improvise. This yields delightfully unpredictable harmonic patterns.

But I was slightly disappointed by the rendition of Silent Night. Although the piece is pleasing to the ears, it sounds too close to several traditional renditions of this holiday classic. This score misses the subtle and bold layers of creative harmonies present in the album's other tracks.

Overall, Christmas Curry is a delicious all-you-can-listen buffet of several significant musical forms and instruments of the Indian subcontinent along side those of the West. Christmas Curry fits into the holiday season quite smoothly, but is also intensely appealing for all seasons. n

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[The CD is being sold at www.ChristmasCurry.com. Proceeds will be donated to Helping Hands, a non-profit organization in India]


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