Nitin Sawhney - Beyond Skin

Album cover

  1. Broken Skin (4:05)
  2. Letting Go (4:49)
  3. Homelands (6:00)
  4. The Pilgrim (4:29)
  5. Tides (5:06)
  6. Nadia (5:05)
  7. Immigrant (6:21)
  8. Serpents (6:17)
  9. Anthem Without Nation (5:48)
  10. Nostalgia (3:41)
  11. The Conference (2:53)
  12. Beyond Skin (3:48)

Outcaste, 1999

The only album I have heard so far by this songwriter, composer, producer and general arty-type. On the strength of this, I really should investigate some of the others. I don't like calling this "crossover music", it's just music, drawing on whatever influences he feels like to create a truly genre-free sound. Probably a perfect example of the broader meaning of "world" music, rather than the more common usage of the word to mean from a single specific part of the world. Ths songs are sandwiched by references to India's nuclear testing, and plenty of lyrics on the theme of cultural and personal identity, reflecting Sawhney's thoughts on his own. Its politics might come across as heavy-handed, but the music is colourful and beautiful enough to transcend the message.

The contemporary-sounding soul numbers including "Broken Skin" and "Immigrant" are suitably slinky. The latter has such a breathlessly good melody that I can forgive its clich├ęd imagery about oceans and distant shores. "Letting Go" has a particularly touching tune and fragile vocals from Tina Grace. The arrangements are coloured impeccably with strings, classical guitar and the glossolalia of various Indian vocalists. Swati Natekar's exhilarating vocal line on "Nadia" is backed niftily with some itchy electronic beats. "The Pilgrim" features a laid back rap, and "Tides" some nifty percussion, but most importantly it's the gorgeous melodies of tracks like these that hold this album together.

June 21, 2004

8 out of 10

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