Tibet2Timbuk2 is a trio consisting of Tenzin Choegyal (vocals, dranyen, flute), Marcello Milani (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Shen Flindell (tabla and percussion). On the nine track CD, “music is life”, they are assisted by Peter Hunt (trumpet), Lansana Camara (vocal, kora) and Taro Terahara (bansuri).

One of the most astonishing things about “music is life” is the fundamental simplicity of the parts played by, in particular, the guitar and dranyen. Mostly uncomplicated and repeated phrases, they nevertheless combine with the tabla to produce an extraordinarily interesting and detailed sound that is intensely hypnotic and enchanting. This is a combination of Africa, India and Tibet, that, for all its unlikeliness, has resulted in a musical masterpiece.

The CD was recorded by trio member Marcello, and reveals his mastery of the technical as well as the musical. This is a clean, spacious and tasteful recording, capturing the essence of the instruments while using the technology to elevate the drama and interest of each.

From the opening sparse and seductive notes of the first track (“Beautiful Girl/Bhumo Zhema”) this CD had me ensnared, and I’ve played it almost non-stop since. It is relaxed, yet energising; ambient yet vigorous. There is something of interest in every bar, and even after having played it many times, I keep finding something new to listen to. Included on this CD is the “Crane Song” (“Ngagpey Sungkey”) which was the 2008 Qsong BMEC Music Award winning piece. It lopes along easily in a slow seven-four, and features the highly acclaimed bansuri player, Taro Terahara.

But my personal favourite is “Lotus Born”, a ten minute tonal landscape that looms through the mist with haunting flute; in which other instruments insinuate themselves almost unnoticed until you bump into them. After about four minutes we hear Peter Hunt’s trumpet: just a long C before it fades, to reappear a little while later. I often clatter away on the keyboard while I am listening to the CD I’m reviewing, but this is a track that stills my fingers and draws me into the music; I have to pay attention, and it won’t let me be distracted, specially by something as mundane as a review.

“Little Things” follows “Lotus Born”, and is lively track that takes you straight to dusky dancers on the Serengeti, with “Dawey Wola” following in similar vein. Featuring Lansana Camara on kora and vocals, the CD is rounded off with the anthemic mantra, “Music is Life”. This track summarises everything that has gone before; there is a particularly special life breathed into this CD by these gifted musicians. Like any self-respecting mantra, it is reversible: “music is life”, but “life is music” for Tibet2Timbuk2.

Mike Raine for indie-cds.com 2009