Raghav – Storyteller

The talent’s always been there. Ask the kids on the street buying mix tapes out of newsagents and independent record stores who jumped on Punjabi MC’s “Mundian To Bach Ke “ about 5 years before it blew up in the mainstream. Asian music has always been as vital and innovative as any form of music, its just that it’s always been consumed outside the general record stores and therefore an artist could sell 10,000 copies of a tape yet never register on the charts. Over the past couple of years the record industry decided to jump in feet first and push “Asian Flavours” forward in the same way business adopts every other market – the pink pound, the black pound, younger doctors. The thing to remember is that while record companies may sign up artists and drop them 12 months later, once the music industry moves on to their next fad these artists will continue sell units outside the mainstream industry to the real fans.

Raghav is interesting for the very fact that he takes traditional music and blends into 14 great pop songs. Co-writing all tracks on the album the pop elements are down to Mushtaq who is best known for his work with the likes of Damage and Misteeq. The singles “Let’s Work It Out”, “Can’t Get Enough”, “So Confused” and “Sooner Or Later” set out the stall perfectly with their off-kilter bhangra rhythms, deep bass and unique Indian scales subverting the traditional pop song. For those who don’t know, the Indian musical scale works in a different way to what we traditionally know as scales so hence the set patterns that pop songwriters Cathy Davis or Brian Higgins will approach a song with will be alien to Raghav.

Throughout the album Raghav shows his versatility from the ballad “No I” to club banging 2-step bhangra “No, No”. “C’Mon” sounds like a rewrite of the Culture Club song “The Crying Game” complete with haunting guitar riff underpinning the percussion. “Windows In My Mind” is not the strongest track on the album, but despite being reminiscent of 80s soul music it at least goes to show that whatever type of music Raghav turns his hand to he works magic. The only worry is that the record company may try to push him away from his background and re-establish him as a radio-friendly soul artist for Radio 2 listeners. On the basis of the two bonus tracks, “Chodh Diya (The Ultimate Sacrifice)” and “Teri Baaton (Your Words), it would be a tragedy. Working with Sly & Robbie was an inspired choice as these tracks really do establish him as a real artist as well as a pop artiste.

“Storyteller” is a great crossover album mixing traditional flavours with pop sensibility. When Raghav grew up he never saw Asian popstars on TOTP, this album should inspire a generation that you can stay true to your roots and still have commercial success

Alex McCann

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