Saturday, 3 March 2012

Shuba Mudgal, Ursula Rucker & The Business Class Refugees - No Stranger Here Review

Artist: Shubha Mudgal, Ursula Rucker & The Business Class Refugees

Album: No Stranger Here

Label: Earthsync

Released: Feb 2012

A Stranger Here is the collaborative work of Shubha Mudgal, Ursula Rucker and The Business Class Refugees

A quick introduction to the contributors.

Shubha Mudgal is a well respected and award winning female Indian vocalist who draws her influences from the ancient and rare teachings of Muslim-Sufi and Hindustani traditions. As well as having her own gift of a voice Shubha has been trained by some of India's greatest vocalists to produce her unique tones, texture and range that are not easily matched.

Ursula Rucker is a Philadelphia born poet and performance artist whose inimitable style and passion has won her many accolades in the music community and seen her collaborate with a diverse range of artists such as 4Hero, Evil 9, URB, The Roots and many more. She is also a social activist and a campaigner for peace both of which inform her writing.

The Business Class Refugees consist of music producer Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam (Kartick & Gotam) who together incorporate world music with their own brand of electronica to produce an emotive language of irresistible grooves.

The whole concept behind 'A Stranger Here' is to give voice to the poetry of Kabir a teacher of the Bakti movement (500-1700AD) Which spoke of the intrinsic search for peace, harmony, love and the deep longing we have to connect and be part of something greater than ourselves. This is given voice to full effect through the union of each contributor to create a sound that covers with ease ages and continents to create something timeless and vital.

The album opens with 'Seraphim Tones' a combination of Business Class Refugee's warm orchestral rising and falling strings inflected with eastern progressions, jazz like beats and breaks and a slowed funkin bassline.
Add to the mix Shubha's lifting, stirring voice and the two dance and meld with each other in perfect harmony.
The track drops off to sparse strings and then Ursula's distinctive voice speaks of what could be someone waiting for an earth bound lover or something more metaphysical. The whole track works beautifully as an opening and lets you know what awaits.

From here it moves onto the playful 'Drunk in Love' where BCR's strings and accompanying electronics lift Shubha's song that celebrates love into a light footed dance.

The track A Stranger Here is the crux of the album and it is here that Ursula's words speak the language of the soul and its need to belong to something more than just the physical. 

"Nomad,Vagabond,Bedouin am I...Seeking spiritual domain
No home for me in the mundane, trivial pursuits...
In search of higher ground..."

This with Business Class's cascading strings bring the track to a rising and soaring finale.Powerful stuff!

On the tracks where just Shubha sings you are able to hear the interplay between her voice and the orchestration of BCR and you can hear just how highly skilled and musically attuned Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam are in complementing and bringing out the best in her voice.

The underpinning of Business Class Refugees orchestral strings (from Trad Indian to more contemporary Penguin Cafe Orchestra-esque to even at one point 70's cop show theme!) really bring out the warm emotive spirit of this album. Add to this Shuhba Mudgal's beautiful and stirring voice and Ursula's visionary lyrical soul (as affecting as Gibran and Rumi at times) and you have an album that is an accomplished tour de force of genre, continent and time defying beauty. 

Reviewed by CKA John

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