Album Review from iTunes
Funkadesi’s first full-length album opens like a more or less traditional reggae project, with dreadlocked Jamaican frontman Valroy Dawkins singing lines like “play reggae in the mornin’ in the noon time praise jah jah praise jah jah” over bouncy Caribbean rhythms. But as the record progresses, the rasta beats are increasingly supplemented and ornamented with exotic East Indian vocals and instrumentation, then grounded with funky bass grooves, layered with Central American congas and flutes, and bathed in sunny African percussion. By the time you get to track five (“All Alone”), as Abdul Hakeem’s electric guitar begins to sizzle under Indian singer Radhika Chimata’s radiantly florid Hindi melodies, it is clear that something truly special is happening here. Funkadesi’s vibrant ethnomusicological stew bears some similarity to other world jam ensembles like Poi Dog Pondering, Rusted Root, and Ulele. But more often than not, such multi-ethnic musical concoctions are brewed by musically adventurous white Americans or Europeans. Because Funkadesi’s nine members came to America from a remarkably broad assortment of countries and world music traditions, there is a compelling authenticity their sound. Their diversity also lends credibility to the album’s calls to world brotherhood. Lines like, “Everybody’s got the right to choose their own destiny/Let’s come together work for one unity,” which might have seemed clichéd coming from another band, have a moving immediacy when presented by a veritable rainbow coalition of masterful musicians gleefully rifling through sitar-backed Arrested Development-esque Afro-spiritual raps (“Libation”) and rasta-fied covers of Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn songs (“Musst Musst”). When it comes to universal brotherhood, Funkadesi is one band that most emphatically puts their money where their mouth is.