With a Grammy nomination in 2003, sitar prodigy Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi, has already made her mark on Indian classical music. For her fourth album, Shankar has allowed Midival Punditz's Gaurav Raina, acting as producer, to jettison the traditional sound of her earlier work in favor of something altogether less orthodox, just as her father teamed up with Beatle George Harrison a generation ago. The album's anchor remains Shankar's dreamy sitar, but it also draws on electronica, jazz, rock, and African rhythms. Best track: the mesmerizing Red Sun.
As the Svengali behind J-pop girl duo Puffy, Tamio Okuda wrote and produced some of the freshest-sounding pop tunes heard anywhere on the planet in the late '90s. But Okuda, as a purveyor of old-fashioned guitar rock, has always been more comfortable just outside the mainstream. His tenth solo album, Comp, shows that he's still in fine form as he approaches 40. Baby Star is classic Okuda: cranked-up, driving, unembellished. The gentle final track, Fune ni Noru (On a Boat), helps takes the edge off an otherwise boisterous musical ride—one with room for rock fans far beyond Japan's shores.
The names Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj aren't as familiar as their sound, which combines electronica with Indian music. On their second album, Midival Times, the duo probe deeper into the classics with the help of stars like Ustad Sultan Khan and tabla supremo Zakir Hussain. The production is still as clean as computer code and the tracks retain a dance feel, but they are more measured and the beats are as likely to be hammered out by hand as manufactured on a synthesizer. The languid Raanjhan is the definitive track here. Saathi, featuring the voice and sarangi of Khan, will please purists old enough to remember Ravi Shankar at Woodstock while fitting right alongside Buddha Bar in their teenage sons' collections.
Always restless, Eason Chan is looking to shed his boyish appeal and usher in the next generation of Canto-pop. His latest album, U87, is a bridge between past and future, showing off a rawness rarely found in Chinese pop and laced with the catchy, if corny, love songs that Hong Kongers have waved their glowsticks to since the '80s. He marks his rebellion with the track Bad Habit as he sings of refusing to give up his beloved cigarettes. Having finally won his musical independence after 10 years on the circuit, it doesn't look like Chan is going to give up on Canto-pop, either.
The product of Jakarta's suburbs and the American education system, the twenty-something members of Sore have the uniquely Indonesian capacity to sound optimistically world-weary. On their debut album Centralismo, the group has written romantic songs inspired by the old corners of central Jakarta where they hung out as kids. The mellow blend of guitar, piano and strings evokes a retro sound from the late '60s without being derivative. It's an album perfect for those rainy days when all you really want to do is lie back and dream of a simpler time in your life.