PERSONNEL: Ranjit Barot — Drums and Vocals ; U. Shrinivas — Electric Mandolin ; Etienne MBappe — Bass and Vocals
TRACKS: 1. Pack Up Your Bags
2. Sona Inon
3. Longue Lami
5. Third World
6. Bombay Makossa
You know the names on this recording: drummer Ranjit Barot, bassist Etienne MBappe, and mandolin maestro U. Shrinivas. You know they have played together: Barot and MBappe as the rhythm section of John McLaughlin’s The 4th Dimension band, Shrinivas appearing on Barot’s “Bada Boom” recording. If you have heard or seen these musicians individually, you may have some idea of what to expect. But when you put them together as the group Chingari, you will find that their debut recording “Bombay Makossa” on AbstractLogix will not only exceed your expectations, they will blow your expectations out of the water.
As composer of the project, Ranjit Barot has created songs that are rhythmically complex with a lot of melody— as you might expect. Bassist Entienne Mbappe also handles most of the singing. He wrote lyrics for Barot’s songs and sings them in his native Cameroon language of Duoala (Barot also sings and vocalizes in konnokol). MBappe’s singing and harmonizing is not only expressive, but soulful. “Makossa” is a musical style that comes from the Douala kossa dance. With the songs covering more western territory, Shrinivas takes on the “lead instrument” role with a heavier feel. His Carnatic lyricism and improvising are in full force — as you might expect —but with this group he brings a bit more edginess and tension to the mix.
The arrangements of the songs allow the trio to pack in a lot of musicality that doesn’t get buried in a lot of over-production. It’s full frontal drums-bass-mandolin-vocals. And though there plenty of instrumental breaks for the Fusion Heads, “Bombay Makossa” is a funky, funky recording. Barot and MBappe lay down phat grooves everywhere. What’s that? U. Shrinivas playing over funky backbeats? You better believe it!
‘Pack Up Your Bags’ features a bass and konnokol unison line that seamlessly shifts into the main theme of the song. ‘Sona Inon’ is a smothering ensemble piece. ‘Fireflight’ moves from a swinging 3/4 theme to a slick funk break. ‘Longue Lami’ has Shrinivas playing over deep funk groove. ‘Tempest’ is a straight-up bitch played in 15 and later doubled to 30; the break sounding like everyone soloing at the same time. ‘Third World’ as a more R&B feel with Barot handling vocals. And the title cut ‘Bombay Makossa’ is a reworking of ‘Origin’ from Barot’s “Bada Boom” recording.
Sadly, U. Shrinivas passed away shorty after the release of “Bombay Makossa”. It is a huge loss: personally for those that knew him, and musically for the rest of the world. “Chingari” means “Spark” in Hindi, and it is a worthy addition to the eternal flame that will be Shrinivas’ legacy.