This editorial is dedicated to putting the spotlight on artists who create amazing music but always seem to fly under the radar for most dance music lovers. With so much great talent nowadays it's easy to miss out on the many musicians who may not appear on the mainstage but always deliver a headliner performance. This weeks Under The Radar features sound designer, film score composer, and electronica's premier world music ambassador, Adham Shaikh.
EDM is like the milky way galaxy, the space that receives most of the spotlight and where the majority of fans originate from, but there also lies a universe of electronica that strays far beyond the basic formulas of popular dance music that's waiting to be explored. One of the most established of these otherworldly talents is Canada's Adham Shaikh, whose been blending international sounds in his music for years and even earned a Juno Award nomination for his 2006 release Fusion. Shaikh doesn't stray from his comfort zone in Basswalla and in many ways he purifies his sound, taking it down a notch with the glitch and dubby sounds and paying even more homage to his multicultural influences.
While he certainly knows how to make some great world music that would work perfectly for scoring an Arabian adventure flick, it's when Shaikh combines both electronic and organic sounds that the album hits it's high points. Possibly its highest point being the very first song and the title track, “Basswalla”, with reggae/dub skanks, hypnotic rhaitas that chill you like a snake charmer, and a bassline reminiscent to an early 2000s dubstep track. It's honestly one of the coolest tracks I've heard all year and Shaikh manages to capture similar feelings throughout the album with “Vibe Hunter”, “Rumba Dub”, “Cultivation”, and the rather enjoyable “Salsa Mystic” which might be the most successful salsa/electronica combo ever crafted.
Not every track is quite as memorable though. There certainly aren't any major blemishes on the album, the worst parts being a few laughable lyrics in “Cultivation” (at one point you hear “a little to the left, and a little to the right”…..lol), but a large portion of the record tends to blur together. No doubt tracks like “Crossroads” or “Beyond I” are incredibly eclectic and well put together, but sometimes the long Indian and middle eastern segments can feel a tad drawn out, especially for listeners who aren't too familiar with world music.
Despite creating a thick cultural barrier to get past, diversity is what Adham Shaikh is all about and he always maintains that sense of majesty and wonder that you'd expect from quality downtempo electronica, most effectively demonstrated with “Sabadub” and “Water Prayer”. If you enter Basswalla with an open mind, above average attention span, or if you already have a diverse musical palette, there's a lot to take from this album, and even if you don't, its not hard to appreciate the high level production and musicianship.
- Water Prayer