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World Music CD Reviews South Asia

Various Artists

By John Kuhlman
Published April 24, 2007

The Rough Guide To The Music Of Malaysia
World Music Network

This CD’s booklet cogently sketches the variety of influences that have gone into contemporary Malay pop (Portugal, the Middle East, classical Indian, Bollywood, Bhangra, rock ’n’ roll, indigenous opera and dance forms, etc., etc.), but you really don’t need to know the difference between dangdut and asli to enjoy the music. The album is such a great synthesis of the raw and the cooked that it can stand on its own, combining slinky Arabian bellydance charts, lush Bollywood arias, over-amped love duets and elegant instrumentals for native lute and accordion (the squeezebox is everywhere on this disc). Perhaps of greatest interest to American listeners is an impossibly catchy and wonderfully off-center piece of Malay rock and roll by Fredo and the Flybaits, Malaysia’s response to a certain quartet from Liverpool. Slightly mind-blowing, and a perfect example of how many different sorts of sugar go into the sweet syrup of East Asian pop.