Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Treasure of Rupa

I will admit it. I don’t know a lot about World Music. But I do know what I like, and I do like Rupa And The April Fishes.
I have greatly enjoyed their two CDs, Extraordindary Rendition and the recently released, Este Mundo (both on Cumbancha) so I jumped at the chance to finally see them play live, even though it was a late (for me) set.
This won’t be a standard live review. I didn’t take notes or jot down the song titles, and wasn’t I able to stay for the whole set. I went for the fun of it but I was so impressed with what I heard that I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the band.
Rupa and the April Fishes play what I would describe as gypsy music. The type of music that you might hear on the streets of Europe, but it’s also “gypsy” in the sense that it borrows from a whole host of global styles. There is some Parisian jazz, some American funk and a host of other world music styles that I don’t know well enough to name-check.
While this unique global sound is colorful and lively on disc, it is even more so in concert. Rupa is a charming frontwoman – smart, passionate and exuding vivacity. Her band (drums, stand-up bass, cello, accordion and trumpet) shares this joie de vivre. They know their chops but play with just enough sloppiness to keep things fresh and fun live.
Rupa Marya has a fascinating story. Her parents moved to Northern California from India before she was born. However, she also spent her childhood in Southern France, another land where she experienced a sense of “outsider-ness.” She returned to the San Francisco area to study medicine but she never gave up her love of music. Now she is both a doctor and a musician.
True to her multi-national upbringing, Rupa sings in a number of languages – French, Spanish, Hindi, English, just to name four. Not understanding most of the lyrics (unless you know all the languages that she knows) gives the songs a mysterious quality. The joyful music, however, can often hide the lyrics’ more serious content. However, Rupa and her band put across the songs with such expressiveness and enthusiasm that the music shines with an irresistible quality.
At their Mint show, they packed the house and had the typically jaded L.A. crowd whooping it up - clapping, singing and dancing along.
If the NPR set and the jam-band crowd haven’t discovered Rupa And The April Fishes yet than it’s only a matter of time. The band’s boisterous fusion of world rhythms is attractive to both audiences. However, if you don’t align yourself with either camp, you might want to check them out anyway. They are a fine gateway band to world music. Rupa and her talented crew make marvelous “music without borders” that transports you on a one-of-a-kind journey with their exuberant songs.

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