MIDIval PunditZ Midival Punditz

Tapan Raj and Gaurav Raina — the Indian duo behind Midival Punditz — are a welcome and somewhat relieving addition to the range of sounds that has been flooding the market under the banner of "Asian break beat.” Thankfully, their debut release is more than just a jump into the mediocre bandwagon of banal fusion dance music. Perhaps even more encouragingly, it is a sign of the exciting things happening in both the dance and contemporary classic Indian music scenes, at least in New Delhi. Raj is a studio engineer by background and his counterpart Raina was a radio DJ prior to their meeting in 1994 when they decided to collaborate musically, building up a studio and connecting with the likes of Talvin Singh in the UK. Their instinct for good production and sound is the most powerful aspect of this debut release. A quick glance at the tracks reveals collaborations with Ajay Naidu (last heard on Talvin Singh’s Oh album doing spoken word), vocalist Vidya Shah and producers from the likes of Tabla Beat Science to Karsh Kale amongst others. Bringing together some of the best musicians in the scene, the tracks are more a wondrous mix of collective artistry than self-indulgent tweaking and tapping. Track highlights include the memorable "Fabric” — featured on the soundtrack of Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, and junglist-inspired bhangra track "Bhangra Fever” and the beautifully sad "Ajmer” featuring vocalists Ghulam Farid Nizami, Chand Nizami and Shadab Nizami. The overall mood is decidedly atmospheric, sometimes sombre and always beautiful. (Six Degrees)