Sunny Jain: Taboo (2010)
The sentences "Some things shouldn't be discussed in public" or "Don't ask, don't tell," are archaic phrases that still persist when speaking about forbidden subjects. South Asian drummer/composer Sunny Jain addresses some of these forbidden topics in Taboo, a scintillating project where he artfully uses his music as a platform to address social issues such as "sexual orientation, inequality and violence upon women, and the juxtaposition of religions." While such topics may continue to be controversial, this release is equally thought provoking, riveting, and engaging.
Jains' compositions draw upon a rich canvass of idioms, with resplendent contributions from vocalists, musicians, and YaliniDream, a Sri Lankan Tamil performance artist whose provides tantalizing spoken word on "Jack and Jill," the opening track that touches on the choice between sexual preferences.
This careful blend of modern jazz, rock, and ragas (melodic modes used in Indian classical music) is indeed intricate. Disparate changes are interlacedacid trip-rock (provided by guitarist Nir Felder) multiple time signatures (by Jain and bassist Gary Wang), and soulful pianistic flights (by Marc Cary). "Two Ladies" is the most straight-ahead track, as the band moves into a saucy blues rhythm.
Complex melodies and harmony are heard in music inspired by ghazals (love poems based on an ancient poetic form) but built on the writings of modern day poets. The exotic lyrics are sung in English, North Indian solfege, and a great Sargam run at the end of "Basa Bhagwaan," where vocalists Sheetal Karhade and Achyut Joshi engage in a more complex version of jazz scatting.
The artists bring their all to the release, and Felder delivers some of his most memorable work to date; in particular his inventive solo in the fabulous "Ye Mera Khuda," a tune with a positive message about religious differences. There's irony in Jain's Taboo, a creative, and inspiring release that would suggest understanding instead of ignorance.
Track Listing: Jack And Jill; Ye Mera Khuda; Two Ladies; Basa Bhagwaan; A Sufi; We Sinful Women; Samaro Mantra.
Personnel: Sunny Jain: drums, dhol (4); Marc Cary: piano; Nir Felder: guitar; Gary Wang: acoustic bass; Achyut Joshi: vocals (1, 4); Sheetal Karhade: vocals (2, 4); Samita Sinha: vocals (6); Shayna Steele: vocals (3); Sachal Vasandani: vocals (5); YaliniDream: spoken word (1).