Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Aug. 6, 2004
Odds are Jim Reeves and Hank Williams don't immediately come to mind upon hearing Oliver Rajamani's worldly music, yet these country stars are among this local multi-instrumentalist's global inspirations. Born in India, Rajamani traveled the Mediterranean before landing in NYC, finally planting roots in Old Waterloo. Drawing from the Roma (gypsies), Indian folk, and flamenco, this sonic poet creates spiritually fed, muscular acoustic soul music. Picture the drumming, strumming, and singing love child of Ravi Shankar and Paco de Lucía. Rajamani's weekly El Sol y La Luna and Ararat gigs feature smaller versions of his ensemble, but albums showcase his octet composed of international artists who've performed with Critters Buggin', DMX, and Carlos Santana. Rajamani's 2002 debut, Pakiam, was one of the year's best, and Sabas keeps the fire alive with a brighter, more refined flame. Rarely heard South Indian folk music is displayed, stoked by the usual Middle Eastern percussion and flamenco fuel, "Dhivana" being a standout. The Northern Indian-seasoned "Anghuti" also shines. Solo drum ("Song of the Deff") and lute ("Yiri") cuts aim toward the stars, but evaporate before getting there. Strange, given that the remaining seven tracks clock in at over five minutes. Sabas is still a magical ride, documenting an Austin musician with potential international star power.