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Album Review: No Stranger Here – Shubha Mudgal, Ursula Rucker, Business Class Refugees

January 18, 2012

No Stranger Here – Shubha Mudgal, Ursula Rucker, Business Class Refugees

No Stranger Here

Every now and again, an album comes along that stands out from the crowd by its sheer imagination and brilliance. No Stranger Here is one of those albums.

Philadelphia based poet and spoken word artist Ursula Rucker, producers Business Class Refugees (Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam) and renowned Hindustani classical singer Shubha Mudgal, have created a diverse and graceful album based around the poetry of Kabir, an Indian mystic and poet. Kabir was associated with the Bhakti Movement (500 AD – 1700 AD). This movement pressed for spiritual renewal and broad human understanding for several centuries in India. Bhakti proponents eschewed the rigid ritualisation of religion, raising a radical call for love and spirit beyond human-made boundaries. Kabir, as both thinker and figure, leaps nimbly across faiths, caste, cultures; legend has it that Kabir was the son of Brahmins, but was raised by Muslim weavers. His spare, often blunt words have had a lasting impact on the Sikh faith and sparked a religious following that now numbers in the millions. Apparently.

The album brings together the elegance and controlled emotion of Indian classical singing, Western orchestral music, modern electronica, and Ursula Rucker’s unique voice.

No Stranger Here explores the universal sense of strangerhood, that mysterious alienation that haunts both our contemporary lives and echoes in centuries-old poems, according to the record label. ‘None of us are strangers to that feeling,’ remarks Sonya Mazumdar, CEO of record label EarthSync, which has released this album. ‘Yet it is the very feeling of not belonging that highlights the intensity of love. We use silences a lot. The use of silences for punctuation is very important to what Kabir is saying,’ she says. ‘We really don’t know about him, what was actually written by Kabir and what was changed by his disciples. But by singing it today, we become part of a much longer continuum’

Ursula Rucker agrees: ‘Just being a poet, no matter how many centuries separate you, is a connection. I use other elements, but my work is really about God and love, even if you have to dig and read between the lines. It’s a continuing thread that goes throughout time’.

Quite. So – what does it actually sound like? The Eastern musical elements, the Western orchestral contributions and the transglobal electronica beats work seamlessly together; Shubha Mudgal‘s Indian classical vocals and Rucker‘s distinctive drawl complement each other superbly. It’s a fairly chilled listen; there’s enough detail and high quality musicianship to keep your attention but it’s mellow enough to just soak up if you don’t want to focus on it. There’s no mention of jazz in any of the PR blurb but I can hear a subtle hint of it in one or two of the rhythm tracks. Not enough to be annoying, I hasten to add. It’s an album worth absorbing slowly – I think you’ll find new things each time you hear it.

  • Release date: 14 February 2012

Have a listen for yourself here on YouTube.

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