Album Review: Soom T – The Arch [X-Ray Production; September 2020]

Sumati Bhardwa, better known as Soom T, is a Glasgow rapper/MC of Indian origin. Justice is important to her and she feels passionate that everyone should reach their potential in life. This informs all she does as an artist. Asian Dub Foundation, The Orb, King Creosote and fellow Glaswegians Mungo’s Hi-Fi are just some of the artists that she has collaborated with over the years.

Soom T has recorded hundreds of tunes and released, to date, seven LPs. Among them, Free as A Bird [Wagram, 2016] and Born Again [Renegade, 2018]. Her latest, The Arch, published by the French label X-Ray Production, is out this month and features 12 tracks of varying vocal styles. Opener ‘Original That’s Me’ has an airy beat to it with fast rapping all the way through. Indeed, her rapping has been described in the past as having a ‘fast style flow’ and this is more than evident across the album.

The second track, ‘Salute to The Boss’, has ‘the princess of ragamuffin’ rapping/singing at a slightly less frenetic pace than the introductory number. We are soon into ‘Sold Out to The Devil’, the current single. Here she raps about reclaiming her soul and it grooves along nicely. Soom T’s spirituality comes to the fore on ‘I Saw A Sign’. “I saw a sign in the sky tonight”, she sings – rather than raps – to good effect.

Her sonorous vocals can ride any rhythm and fuse into the background music well. This talent allows her to potentially reach fans of differing types of music from reggae to hip hop over to soul. But whatever the style, you can be sure that Soom T will inject a piece of her soul into every song she sings.

However, to these ears, this music is an acquired taste, a taste which has to be developed more fully. But then a track like ‘Vampire of The Empire’ comes on and it forces a reassessment. With such a great groove running through it, this has to be a stand-out track from the album. ‘Master of Your House’ has a nice mellow reggae vibe about it and this fits in well with the overall feel.

‘World Be Better’ is another uplifting, optimistic tune and underlines Soom T’s positive energy vibe, which has endeared her to so many over the years. She really does radiate and this shines throughout The Arch in spades. ‘Far from Home’ closes off the record and Soom T returns to her trademark break-neck-speed rapping style. Even if you can’t make out the lyrics, there’s a strong rhythm at work which makes it quite a danceable tune.

Massively popular in France, this versatile vocalist is due to tour there in the coming months. Live gigs, I suspect, are the best way to experience Soom T’s music. With Covid–19 casting a dark shadow over the world, one wonders whether the French tour dates can or will go ahead. Let’s hope this powerful performer finds a way to reach people one way or another. In the meantime, The Arch is as good a place as any to start.