Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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London-born Tjinder Singh loves the Indian music of his parents. But he also loves alternative rock and African American dance music, and he and his band Cornershop put all of them into their mix of easy rhythms and catchy tunes. On Handcream for a Generation (Beggars Banquet), the tunes are stronger than ever, although there's no novelty sure shot like 1997's Punjabi anthem "Brimful of Asha." Never before has Singh's songwriting shown so much range and consistency--as always, his strategy is to toss off lines like "I understand guns in the a&r office" while sounding like the friendliest person you could hope to meet. Musically and lyrically, ethnic ferment isn't contained--it's taken for granted, defined as a precondition of the fun you want to have. Which, more and more, is exactly the way today's pop music works.

Anybody who associates ragtime with Marvin Hamlisch class should get a load of Joplin's Disciple (Delmark), recorded in the 1940s, when white oldtimer Brun Campbell was past 60--and could still fracture mahogany with his left hand. Great tunes, huge beat.

Before Congolese soukous ruled Afropop, a style Ghanaians and Nigerians called highlife prevailed. On Sankofa (Network), contemporary musicians united under the rubric the Highlife Allstars demonstrate why all Africans once hummed their songs.

Playboy, Feb. 2002

Jan. 2002 Mar. 2002