Released on 18th April, Haunting Bazaar is bansuri player/flautist Teymour Housego's debut leader album, in collaboration with long-time collaborator guitarist and vocalist Yves Mesnil. Housego's credits range from Jethro Tull to the Bombay Dub Orchestra and also include a so far un-released Michael Jackson song recorded after hurricane Katrina. He is also a co-founder of flamenco/Middle Eastern fusion group Alcazaba.
Nominally on the world beat side of things, it would however be extremely unkind to limit and pigeonhole this album to this category. Haunting Bazaar is more than a cut above the average world beat album and indeed comes as a very pleasant surprise. Heavy influences of especially Hindustani, or North Indian, classical music are prominent, while Bollywood is largely given a miss.
Housego, who partly grew up in India, is only the second western bansuri player to come to prominence (the first having been American Steve Gorn, active on the North Indian classical and jazz scenes in California since the 1970s). And an excellent bansuri player Housego proves himself here, with a largely Indian classical style offset with some western flute technique.
Haunting Bazaar is essentially a collection of songs and wordless songs utilising 'sol fa' singing of the North Indian note names. Of the eight tracks, four are Housego/Mesnil originals, three have additional writing collaborators, and one - the closer, Global Odyssey - is an Yves Mesnil composition.
In addition to Mesnil's vocals on Ahimsa, Encounters - Part 1 and Global Odyssey, all tracks feature additional singers. Tina Grace is featured on Ahimsa, Melissa Baten on Aruna, Manickan Yogeswaran on Encounters - Part 1, the title track and A Burning Desire, Kartik Raghunathan on Never Alone and A Burning Desire, Kumar Raghunathan on Aruna, Elif Ergisi on Encounters - Part 1, the title track, A Burning Desire and Encounters - Part 2, and
Kassé Mady Diabaté on Global Odyssey.
This already large cast list of guest artists is further augmented by percussionist Steve Shehan, the superb cellist Jenny Adejayan, Nathan Riki Thomson on double bass, Jyotsna Srikanth on violin, Jag Sehra and Sujit Mukherjee on tabla, ney player Kudsi Erguner, Brigitte Menon on sitar, Rico Peron on berimbau, sanza, and pipe, and Le Gasquet Male Choir, all on selected tracks.
Overall, the compositions on Haunting Bazaar are strong and well conceived and truly delightful. This delight is further enhanced by the excellent performances of all the singers and players, and particularly Teymour Housego's superb bansuri. The only potential weakness might be in the otherwise excellent Global Odyssey, which may be just a touch overly ambitious and long at just over nine and a half minutes; and while one would perhaps like to have heard Housego's rich bansuri offset against the crisper Middle Eastern ney of Kudsi Erguner more prominently, the sitar seems more than a touch surplus to requirements with no real contribution other than the merest touch of colour. However, these are minor quibbles and this is still a delightful track.
The music of Haunting Bazaar is as imaginative as it is inspired, as exceptionally beautiful as it is enchanting. It would have been very easy to go over the top with this, but Housego's arrangements always remain as sensitive and tasteful as his playing. The title seems apt. This album is both haunting, as in hauntingly beautiful, and a bit of a musical bazaar, with touches of a miscellany of different musical cultures being present.
A very consistent album, it would be impossible to pick out any single favourite track on Haunting Bazaar. This is a more than compelling album whose enchantment and freshness makes one want to play it all over again as soon as it finishes. The forty-one odd minutes of Haunting Bazaar seem to just fly by all too quickly. One definitely would like to hear more, a lot more, of Teymour Housego and his wonderful bansuri. A tour in support of the album is planned for the summer and something to look forward to.
Teymour Housego's Haunting Bazaar should definitely be considered essential in any good world music or world beat collection. It makes a refreshing change from the more usual world beat fare. A very firm favourite here already.
At present, Haunting Bazaar is only available as digital downloads from iTunes and Amazon, with limited numbers of CDs available at gigs. One would strongly hope to see a proper CD release soon.
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