Friday, February 04, 2005

Mini-Review of Rishi Rich, The Best

Rishi Rich, The Best deserves a mini-review because it is really a mini-album. It's marked for Indian release (Nupur, 2004); I found it in New Jersey.

Rishi Rich has been a madly prolific producer of desi-ish pop music in England since the late 1990s. He's most famous for his work with pop stars like Jay Sean and Craig David, as well as his studio-commissioned Bhangra remix of Britney Spears', "Me Against the Music." He also did some Punjabi 2-step music with people like Jassi Sidhu (B21) and Bally Jagpal, which has more or less been forgotten -- too bad. Rishi Rich's sensibility is really R&B more than Bhangra; there is very little by way of traditional Dhol or Tumbi in most of his music. (When it is there, as in the Britney Spears "Desi Kultcha" remix, it doesn't always add much.) I should add that Rich has also had some cross-over success in India, with tracks for movies like Hum Tum (he did the catchy, R&B title track, "U 'n' I Hum Tum"). And more Bollywood is on the way...

Rich really is a very talented R&B producer, but I've yet to hear something of his that really blew me away, in the vein of Timbaland and Aaliyah's "If your girl only knew." This Best Of CD is the Indian version of the album Rich released in England in 2002 (Simply Rich), but it's lacking some of the best songs from that release for some reason (especially "Nahin Jeena"). It's not terribly inspiring overall, and I'll just mention a couple of tracks that I hadn't heard before.

The highlight here is probably "Mainu Kaleyan Wekh Ke," which is, surprisingly, a Punjabi song in a rocksteady ska format. It takes me back to the old ska-bhangra experiments from the early 1990s, with groups like Cultural FX and the Sahotas on Multitone Records. This track is marred by vocals that aren't quite what one would want, but the kitschy euphoria of ska and the Bhangra's teasing and joi de vivre, work well together. I wish there were more of it!

Another surprise track is a 2-step anthem entirely in English, called "No One There," with the singer Veronica (who also sings on "U 'n' I Hum Tum"). It's just a catchy pop/2-step track in the vein of Daniel Bedingfield, Craig David, and about 1000 others. Rich aggressively cuts and splices the R&B style vocals (simple definition: 2-step is essentially R&B in double-time).

The result is an interesting textural tension. On the bottom is the "smooth" (legato) texture of 2-step/R&B. On top are rough edges and angular, staccato melodic recombinations designed by the producer.

Link: the BBC bio of Rishi Rich

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