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July 16, 2009

The Shin: Georgia's Eclectic Jams

by John Oseid

Sometimes you hear an entire album and have absolutely no clue where the music is from. You could listen to the Shin's album EgAri a hundred times--with its polyphonic, multi-string, multi-percussion, sometimes jazzy flamenco-ish Middle Eastern ecclesiastical sound--and be no closer to figuring out where the group originated. And I mean that as a testament to the fact that the Shin comes from Georgia, as in the Republic of . . .

I've had Georgia on my mind ever since I read about the quirky, multifarious country in Gully Wells's December 2007 Condé Nast Traveler story, "Georgia Uncorked." So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised that the music was equally compelling. "Take This Morning" alternates between vigorous and down-tempo strings, with various group members lending vocal gymnastics. (Look for one of the string players' impromptu dances in the video above.) "Born in the Saddle" is another robust number, one in which Asian steppes seem to meet Scandinavian folk, with jazz scatting thrown in. Then it's South Indian meets klezmer in "On Tiptoes." And so it goes.

You can catch the Shin playing throughout Europe over the next several months. The band's name, incidentally, means "Home," the album title, "That's It." Whatever their sound is, it's fascinating stuff . . . and most important, it's just damn fun.

More music:
* In Brentwood, Los Angeles, the Skirball Cultural Center's free Sunset Concerts series runs through mid-August. Tonight's performer is Malian n'goni string player Issa Bagayogo, whom I highlighted last fall.
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world.

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