***“What did South Africa and South East Asia of the 1940s and 50s have in common? In both places the local population was trying to gain independence from British colonialism. Although colonialism is never a good thing, there are always some positive outcomes when two cultures collide, especially when it comes to music. The Zulu of South Africa are the largest ethnic group in the country and are well known for their rich musical traditions. In the 1940s, however, Zulu musicians began fusing traditional Zulu choral music with the instruments and rhythms of Western jazz. A continent away in India, we see that the same kind of musical revolution was taking place during this same period. Calcutta in particular became a musical hotbed beginning in WWII. The jazz scene was mainly centered on the house bands from the various luxury hotels and British social clubs, with these bands often recording for the South East Asian division of E.M.I. Beginning in 1942, following the Japanese invasion of Burma (Myanmar), hundreds of thousands of refugees poured into India, among these great jazz musicians like Reuben Solomon (of Iraqi Jewish descent) of ‘The Rangoon Gymkhana Club’ fame. Batuk Nandy, on the other hand, was a well-known steel guitar player who rose to fame by making ‘filmi’ music for Bollywood films, while Bismillah Khan was an Indian shehnai (a traditional flute-like instrument) master, and one of only three classical musicians to have ever won the Bharat Ratna prize, the highest civilian prize in India. Khan was also one of the few musicians to perform at Delhi's Red Fort in 1947 for India's Independence celebrations. Despite the obvious negative outcomes, different cultures and religions forced together in the face of economic and political adversity has historically been a recipe for great music, and as this album testifies, India and South Africa were no different.”
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