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July 30, 2009

The Bayou and Bollywood in Brooklyn

The video to one of Kailash Kher's early hits, "Teri Deewani," has all the drama of a Bollywood tale

by John Oseid

These days, the Celebrate Brooklyn series at the Prospect Park band shell is a hot ticket. (Well, a free ticket, really.) Under a towering grove of trees and evening breezes, picnicking families join hipsters to check out top music-makers from around the globe. Last weekend, I discovered two spectacular live performers.

Twenty years ago, the infectious Buckwheat Zydeco party song "Ya Ya" turned me on to Cajun music. Don't know what took me so long to finally see the Louisiana legend boogie a crowd like he did Friday with his band Ils Sont Partis. His repertoire includes a great Creole version of Hank Williams's "Hey Good Looking," and I loved "Jackpot," off an album of the same name. At one point Buckwheat put down his signature accordion to show his chops on the Hammond B3 organ. After hearing his version of Jimmy Cliff's "Let Your Yeah Be Yeah" off his new release Lay Your Burden Down, I ordered the album post-haste.

Saturday night I returned to Prospect Park with Condé Nast Traveler Ombudsman Editor Sanjay Surana for a completely different vibe. When Kailash Kher is not a judge on Indian Idol, he is a star singer in his own right. His band, Kailasa, blends rock and electronica riffs over Sufi-inspired music. At times during the performance on Saturday, the keyboardist mimicked the lovely harmonium pitches used in classic Hindustani music, while a staccato tabla drum rode over funky bass guitar. Kher moved from slow devotional acoustic numbers to frenetic Punjabi bhangra dance beats that had the crowd bouncing up and down all night. 

More music:
* Dates for Buckwheat Zydeco's current thirtieth Anniversary Tour are on his MySpace page. Here's a 1990 clip of Buckwheat and the Neville Brothers performing the hit "Ya Ya"
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world


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