Dhoad are now the third or fourth group of musicians I've heard from this region of India and my experience this time was no different from the previous occasions. The difficulty faced by Western audiences listening to music from India is that we are so unfamiliar with both the scale in use and the sound of the instruments, no matter what region it's from, that initially, it all sounds the same. So don't be surprised if Dhoad, in spite of the word Gypsy included in their name, at first listen sound little or nothing like Roma music from the West and a whole lot like most everything else from Southeast Asia.
However as you start to pick out individual instruments within the mix you'll begin to hear patterns in both the instrumental work and vocal stylings that have things in common with bands in Romania and other European communities. The first of the disc's 10 tracks, "Banno", is a good example of this as what catches your attention are the vocals and the multilayered rhythm of the tabla. The vocals have the high-pitched, almost falsetto, nasal quality I've come to associate with male singers of a certain style from India, and the tabla is being played in a time signature my body, raised on the basic syncopation of the West—everything a multiple of two or three—just can't recognize. Yet, when a break occurs and the vocals and tabla fall away leaving only the sound of the harmonium-type instrument, all of a sudden there's a note of familiarity. In it I can hear the accordions of the bands from Eastern and Western Europe. It's not just the way the instrument sounds that is familiar, but the way it is being used. Both the tempo it is being played at and the quality it is adding to the music are identical to the contribution made by its Western counterpart.
When the second set of vocals kicks in on the same track, anybody familiar with other Roma bands will hear startling similarities between this singer's voice and vocalists in those other bands. It might have been just my imagination, but there was even something about the way the language sounded that seemed similar to what I've heard sung by some Romanian Roma.
There are other songs on the disc where Dhoad are deliberately sounding like other musicians. "Rajasthani Reggae" starts off with an obvious nod in the direction of Jamaica—which doesn't really have much to do with Roma music no matter how you look at it, but is in keeping with the disc's title of Roots Travellers. They might not be the first band from outside the Caribbean to take a stab at a reggae tune, but theirs is one of the most original ventures into that genre you'll ever hear.