Susheela Raman – Music for Crocodiles

Music for Crocodiles breaks away from the pack and heads for the lucrative world of big name female vocalists but it does so with charm and a sultry flavour all of its own

Her first album Salt Rain was fresh and full of ideas that had no doubt been bubbling around in her head for a long time. Her sophomore release, according to received wisdom, failed to match it but now on Music for Crocodiles she has defined her multicultural singer/songwriter groove and pulled in a host of musicians to get the sound she wants.
Remarkably, this is the first time she has had the chance to record with Indian musicians. A year ago, she made the trip to Chennai (Madras) with her band and got down to business. The results include wonderful tracks like ‘Chordhiya’ featuring a rich Indian string section or the opening track ‘What Silence Said’ — a typically poetic reflection on broken love: “How does the unknown bird enter and leave the cage?”
On the title track, she gathers around her an eclectic set of musicians including experimental drummer Marque Gilmore, Cheick Tidiane Seck (grooving big time on Hammond B3 organ) and BUMCELLO on electric cello. Add tabla, guitar and elusive lyrics and you have the Susheela Raman experience in full. It’s a defiantly personal and honest sound drawn from a place where continents clash and combine on a daily basis.
Clever love songs with a richer than usual palette of sounds, it is refreshingly hard to put a label on her music, even that heavy, patronising and almost meaningless term ‘world music’ slips off her like an untied saddle on a bolting horse.
This is an English album perhaps above all, not only because most of the songs are in that tongue but because this is the land where all her influences come together. ‘The Same Song’ perhaps expresses this sense of multiple locatedness best with the question, “Nowhere to go but the horizon / Where then will I call my home?” and then answers it with, “Behind me the bridges have crumbled / No question of return”.

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