Album Review: Brown Sugar's "Zamaane"
Some say that a cappella at Northwestern is like the TV show Glee. But that can't be, because the kids on Glee bagged football players and couldn't drink for shit, which we all know doesn't hold true for acca-biddies and acca-bros at Northwestern.
Others posit that a cappella at Northwestern is more like Community. Marginally popular--but not enough to get people to care enough to watch every performance--and irrationally beloved among the theater community.
While all these theories and more may be true, it's clear after the first listen that Brown Sugar's latest album Zamaane situates Brown Sugar as the Mad Men of a cappella at NU: Genre-defining, poignant, sexy in all the right places, and best after a glass of scotch or five. Just so long as you ignore the fact that the Mad Men cast is more white-washed than Mitt Romney's book group and Brown Sugar is, well, the nation's premiere co-ed South Asian collegiate a cappella group.
With beats so fresh I may have produced some white sugar of my own, BSug's fourth studio album places an indelible mushroom stamp on Northwestern's vaunted a cappella scene. Brown Sugar intersperses song and dance so well they make Bollywood look like Nickelback covering Garth Brooks.
Under the fearless auspices of arraingers Tejas Shastry, Beau Garrett, Kaushal Khambhati, Gaurav Kikani, and Dov Shalman, Brown Sugar infuses western pop with Punjabi flavor. The album is such a kickass celebration of cultural heritage, I halfway expected to receive an email from ASG President Ani Ajith by the end of the stellar opening mashup "Des Rangila / Saajan Ji Ghar Aaye."
The rest of the album followed suit, especially the heartbreaking "Halo / Shukran Allah," which combined Beyoncé's power ballad about a heavenly lover with a song from a 2009 film about terrorism and the philosophy of the religious tenets of Muslims worldwide because why the hell not? On the track, as with the entire album, Brown Sugar show off their impressive capacity to intertwine pop sensibility with authoritative South Asian style that couldn't even be matched if Pervez Musharraf had a devil's threesome with Timbaland and Paula Abdul deep within the Kashmir region.*
Other highlights include the mind-blowing poetry that runs rife throughout Lagaan Medley, featuring such lines as "Zinnndinn din din dinn din Zinnndinn din din dinn din," which sublty alludes to the despair of love lost and the fleeting irony of human existence. The line is only matched later in the song by the equally stunning mantra of "wooo oooo oooo woooo," sung in just the right way to suggest the bright potential of postcolonial society while reminding the listener of the chipper renditions of Top 40 songs to come on the album.
The only complaint I could find for the whole album pertained to Brown Sugar's cover of "Set Fire to the Rain / Chand Sifarish," whose lead vocals by Medhavi Bhasin and Gaurav Kikani were so sublime I had no choice but to spend the next two hours crying alone in the shower.
Brown Sugar's Zamaane is without a doubt the
only best a cappella album I've heard thus far in 2013, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to casual listeners, music aficionados, and Christina Hendricks alike.
Overall Rating: On the scale of "Eating a pound of brown sugar" to the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar," Zamaane is waaaaaaaay closer to the latter.
Brown Sugar's Zamaane can be found HERE!
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————— *Fun Fact: Two of those three came to power during a bloodless military coup d'etat.