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The English translation of the Urdu word junoon is “passion". It could also mean an obsession bordering on madness. Israeli singer, musician and songwriter Shye Ben-Tzur’s new collaborative album, Junun, is both passionate and mad.

Ben-Tzur and his band, including a disparate bunch of musicians from Rajasthan and one of the most well-known names in rock, British band Radiohead’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood, tackle the material with a fervour evident from the start of the album. The album’s lyrics, steeped in Sufi culture, are a mix of Hebrew, Urdu and Hindi, and as Ben-Tzur explained in a recent BBC interview, they deal with the “madness of love". No doubt, the setting for the recording sessions held in February last year—Mehrangarh Fort, the spectacular hilltop citadel in Jodhpur—played a role in the inspired performances.

Traditional Rajasthani music has attracted collaborations with international musicians for several years. The emergence of festivals such as Jodhpur Riff, and a steady stream of music released by the likes of Delhi-based Amarrass Records, are by-products of such interest and collaborations.

When you add Greenwood to the mix, you know that Junun is going to get attention. Refreshingly, the album does not descend into pointless one-upmanship and Greenwood remains largely in the background, providing subtle musical touches. The Greenwood connection is bolstered by the presence of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who recorded the album, and film-maker Paul Thomas Anderson (Greenwood has provided the music for three of his films), who shot an hour-long film documenting the recording of the album.

Like most parts of India, Rajasthan has several different traditions of music. In Junun, Ben-Tzur focuses on three strands—qawwali, traditional music from the desert by the nomadic Manganiyar community, and the brass band, ubiquitous at weddings and in street processions. These disparate styles are held together by the rock and ambient electronic textures that Greenwood provides, all under the musical baton of Ben-Tzur.

Ben-Tzur, born in New York City, fell in love with Indian music more than 15 years ago when he heard a performance by Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain in Jerusalem. He travelled to India to study Hindustani classical (he plays the bamboo flute apart from the guitar) and discovered the mystical world of qawwals. Ben-Tzur began living in Ajmer, a prominent centre for the Chishti Sufi order, and performing with local qawwals. Soon enough, he was composing qawwalis in his native Hebrew.

The real stars of the two-disc album are the 19 musicians, collectively called the Rajasthan Express. And the reason why Junun packs such a punch is the effortless manner in which these unrelated styles of music come across as an organic whole. The title track, with which the album starts, is a teaser for what is to come.

After a brief burst of electronic beats, Aamir Bhiyani swoops in with a trumpet solo; it’s a crepuscular tone, recalling Miles Davis and some of those famous Blue Note jazz albums from the 1950s. The qawwals—Zaki Ali and Zakir Ali—and Ben-Tzur move in, singing over the swirling notes of the harmonium and dholak beats. But it is unlike any Sufi song, with the presence of a boisterous brass band led by Bhiyani, featuring an assortment of trumpets, tubas and a trombone. The brass band provides a change of scene at opportune moments and also takes centre stage in Julus, with its wedding party exuberance, and a largely instrumental Junun Brass.

Some tracks, like Chala Vahi Des and Allah Elohim, will be familiar to Indian listeners because of their Hindi film-style qawwali. The quirkier tunes in Junun include Eloah, which ingeniously combines rhythmic chanting in Hebrew with a soaring vocal by Ben-Tzur, and the rather disco-sounding Roked with echoey vocals.

The most ambitious songs on the album are also the lengthiest. Hu showcases the Manganiyar musicians, and the mournful bowed notes of Asin Khan’s sarangi and Dara Khan’s kamaicha add another dimension to the album. There is even a moment mid-song when the loping melody recalls The Beatles dabbling with Indian folk music on The Inner Light. Kalandar is almost 9 minutes long and contains breathy flute-playing by Ben-Tzur and eerie atmospherics conjured up by Greenwood on the ondes martenot, an early electronic keyboard instrument that he has used on several occasions on Radiohead tracks.

Is Junun fusion? Is it world music or, perhaps, Sufi? It doesn’t matter. It is amazing to listen to Indian musicians with no knowledge of the language singing passionately in Hebrew. Sometimes music transcends all barriers.

Junun by Shye Ben-Tzur, Jonny Greenwood and The Rajasthan Express (Nonesuch Records) is available for 200 on iTunes.

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