I’m a bit of a sucker for Indian music – all types really, not just the commercial fusion of bhangra and rap that was made popular by the likes of Apache Indian many years ago! There’s something fresh, honest and even ‘innocent’ about the sounds coming out of that great country. (Having visited the country a couple of times, I just love the place, culture and energy, so that’s why I’m so enthusiastic, I guess.)
SUNDAY DRIVER were formed back in 2001 when South Indian songstress Chandy Nath returned from three months living and working on an ice sheet with the British Antarctic survey team. She gathered around her a band that soon fell for the complex rhythms and melodies of Indian music and subsequently threw themselves into creating a colourful ‘East meets West’ sound.
Those band members have continued to develop their skills throughout the past ten years or so and have even taken lessons from Baluji Shrivatav, who is a renowned Indian music maestro. Their sound broadened with the addition of jazz clarinet and they even went to the lengths of training in Hindustani vocal technique.
SUNDAY DRIVER have lately created an entirely new live performance that draws together British and Asian influences over three centuries. The show (‘The Clockwork Tiger’) incorporates elements of Khatak dance together with the work of spoken word artist, Beyonder.
And this latest album ‘The Mutiny’ (you were wondering when I was going to get there, weren’t you?) explores themes of mutiny and rebellion inspired by historical and contemporary events around the world!
Aha! So maybe you’re thinking this could be a bit too ‘deep;’ or a little too ‘theatrical’ for your taste? Well, to a degree I’d have to agree – the case for the prosecution would refer you the second of the two videos below!
Tracks such as ‘The General,’ ‘Mechanical Angel’ and the title track itself are just too slow and downbeat for me. Granted, Chandy’s vocals are sublime, but it’s just not my kind of music at all. Likewise, I’d say the same for tracks such as ‘Concubine Waltz’ and ‘The Fantasist’ that mix Eastern influences with classical dances like the waltz and rumba (I think) respectively – although again you have to admire the diversity and originality.
However, the more upbeat ‘The Suitor,’ although it probably has less ‘Indian’ influence running through it is a terrific track with some really neat guitar work while Chandy’s vocals are more mid-range and remind me of Bec Newman from The Hot Puppies. Likewise, the more jazz themed ‘Clockwork Tiger,’ is an interesting listen with little clarinet runs buzzing around like a frantic bumble bee.
For me however, it’s the draw of the more Indian based songs that appeal. ‘Myself,’ features the distinct sound of the tabla together with some light sitar mixed in amongst the body of the work. And although it is of much slower pace and quieter than the music I’d normally listen to, ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram,’ is beautifully atmospheric creating images of a pink-hued sun shrouded in an early morning mist, rising slowly into the sky as below it the ground begins to steam under its hazy glow. (It does – it really does! I love this track!)
So – overall this is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I do think ‘The Mutiny’ will appeal to certain niche market –though perhaps not to many crusty old punks like myself. But there’s no denying the quality and class of such an album, and hence the mark below reflects not so much my personal taste, but indicates more an overall assessment of the work.
(Released through Bakul Bagan Records on 20th April 2012)