Various Putumayo Presents Asian Groove

Putumayo continues to expand its discography of earnestly well-packaged "ethnic" music with this latest addition, which nods to the currently à la mode genre of "Asian music." As most commentators have rightly remarked, and the discomforting packaging ploys aside, this compilation is somewhat touch and go. There are a few contributions courtesy of Karmix, Susheela Raman and Mo'Horizons, which are pleasantly banal and unmemorable. Unfortunately, Nitin Sahwney's collaborative effort with Trinidadian musician Mungal, called "Awake," smacks of the same, moving from mellow, dubby beats with a sitar melody to anti-climactic drum & bass. Birmingham native Bally Jagpal's track, "Pheli War," opens the compilation and puts in an honest effort to bring together bhangra and R&B via Pakistani singer Shazia Manzoor's swooning vocals. Kam Dhillon's closing track, "Aankh Naal," is another catchy bhangra tune teasingly using the '70s influenced vocoder with remarkably likable results. The clincher in this compilation is clearly Bally Sagoo's remix of "Noorie" - that wondrous poetic song from the 1979 film of the same name. This track was last heard on the soundtrack for British Asian film Bend It Like Beckham and works no matter where it's used. Touch and go as it is, fans keen on the new directions bhangra music are taking are better off exploring possibilities elsewhere. (Putumayo)