People interested in Asian Underground music have probably already heard of Falu, a singer who first appeared on Karsh Kale's Realize back in 2001. Since then she's been featured on a number of other people's CDs, but today she releases her own, self-titled CD. Rather than going for more in the way electronic beats, here Falu works with a live rock/desi fusion band, doing a mix of English and Hindi/Urdu songs.
It's a strong first effort. Falu has trained in Hindustani classical music with Ustad Sultan Khan, and there are several nice Hindi/Urdu tracks on the CD. The strongest is certainly her version of "O Lal Meri" (aka, "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar"); here the music is traditional, and Falu gets to really show off her Qawwali chops. I found Falu's version of Asha Bhosle's "Dum Maro Dum" less exciting, perhaps because I'm too attached to the original -- and to Asha Bhosle's voice (still, Falu's rock/fusion band seems to be having a good time rocking out a bit here). Also good are "Rabba" and "Poojan." Ustad Sultan Khan himself shows up playing Sarangi on two tracks, and he joins in the vocals to "Copper Can."
Thus far, I've been somewhat less excited by the English language songs on the CD, though there are some notable exceptions. The lyrics to "Without You" are a mix of English and Urdu, and it's intriguing to hear Falu do Qawwali-esque vocal trills on the English as well as the Urdu parts of the song. "Hey Baby" is entirely in English (albeit with a desi musical touch), though from listening to the lyrics it occurred to me that Falu is replicating in a secular, English, rock idiom the themes that are also prevalent Qawwali music: longing, desire, and the inaccessibility of the beloved. The difference, of course, is that in Urdu the longing is for God, while in English the longing is for a lover. (Note: you can listen to "Hey Baby" on Falu's Myspace page)
You can get this CD at Falu's website; it's also available on Itunes and at Amazon. Readers in the New York area might want to hit the CD release party at Canal Room tomorrow (more details here). I won't be able to go; perhaps Falu and her band will come to Philly sometime...
[Disclosure: the folks at Press Here music sent me a review copy of this CD.]