Friday, July 03, 2009

Big drum, big sound

My latest CD purchase arrived yesterday, and I've been listening to it today. What did I buy? Big Drum, Small World, the debut from Dhol Foundation. The dhol is a very large, powerful drum from the Punjab region of India. The Dhol Foundation began as a school in the U.K. where students learn to play the drum. Now, in addition to the school, there is a Dhol Foundation band led by Dhol Foundation headmaster and founder Johnny Kalsi, who is the dhol drummer for the Afro Celt Sound System.

You might think that an album of songs with a large group of people playing loud drums would be overwhelming, but you'd be wrong. That's because this isn't that kind of album. There are a few tracks where the dhol is featured prominently, but most of the tracks use it with restraint. Big Drum, Small World is more of a Johnny Kalsi solo album. Johnny plays dhol on every track and contributes to songwriting, programming and keyboard playing.

The sound is much like Afro Celt Sound System - rooted in electronic sounds and beats, sprinkled with live instruments and drumming. Fans of the ACSS will enjoy this album very much. Of course, a big difference is that the flavors here are mostly Indian and Middle-Eastern. Whistle makes an appearance on a few tracks, but this isn't really very Celtic.

My only complaint is that the tracks aren't as focused as the latter-day Afro Celt Sound System songs. ACSS started with tracks that meandered and grooved, much like the songs here, but today their work has shape and design. ACSS songs can be enjoyed as songs, but most of the songs on Big Drum, Small World are made for the club.

I wanted something fun and upbeat for summer, and this album is certainly fun and upbeat. I know I'll enjoy it for years to come.

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