Jostojoo Forever Seeking (Banyan Tree Production, 2008)
Most world music fans would easily recognize Mamak Khadem’s voice by her work with the popular Persian ensemble Axiom of Choice, but that would just be a sliver of this songstress’ career. Lending her exquisite voice to movie and television soundtracks like The Peacemaker, Traffic, The Profiler and Battlestar Galactica, participating in the Voices of Women Festival in Greece and the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles, as well as, appearing on Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s Alif and Jamshied Sharifi’s A Prayer for the Soul of Layla has certainly put Ms. Khadem firmly on the musical map. Now fans have a new reason to rejoice because Mamak Khadem has kicked off her solo career in a big way with Jostojoo Forever Seeking out on Banyan Tree Productions.
Assembling and arranging a repertoire of songs based on melodies found in Iran, Baluchistan, Armenia, Turkey, Greece and Kurdistan and shot through with Persian poetry, Ms. Khadem, along with producer extraordinaire Jamshied Sharifi and Omar Faruk Tekbilek, has created a smart, sophisticated CD with Jostojoo. Artfully crafted and expertly arranged, Jostojoo is simply an invitation something magical.
Opening track “Baz Amadam The Return” starts simply but blossoms into a full force of clarinet, oud, darbuka, viola, bass, djembe, gungon, bender, chaker, bells, bombo and some snappy hand claps against the full force of Ms. Khadem’s vocals. I have to admit a little greedy pleasure I get from tracks like percussion layered “Gelayeh Plaintive” or the achingly poignant Kurdish melody “Varan Rain” in that there is a fairytale like feel to them, where there are unexpected turns of vocal phrasing I didn’t expect or the subtle circle of accordion or clarinet that wend their way throughout the compositions.
Omar Faruk Tekbilek lends his rich voice to Ms. Khadem’s bewitching vocals on “Heydar,” a composition brimming over with the meaty sounds of ney, baglama, tam-tam, daf, cajon, darbuka, shaker and accordion. In addition to rich pieces like title track “Jostojoo,” “Lalah Lullaby for the Awakening” and “Avareh Homewrecke,d” there is the powerful “Lachrymosa” with Mamak Khadem on vocals and harmonium, Kourosh Moradi on tambur and vocals and Omar Faruk Tekbilek on vocals and ney that is deliciously evocative.
While centered around Mamak Khadem’s vocals, Jostojoo Forever Speaking also features some splendid musicians like Ole Mathisen on clarinet, Simone Haggiag on daf and cajon as well as a whole host of other instruments, Eyvind King on viola, Brahim Fribgane and Dimitris Mahlis on oud, Skuli Sverrisson on bass, Benjamin Wittman on darbuka and Hamid Saeidi on santur. There’s also Habib Mefia on dom dom and damman, Sofia Lambropoulou on kanum, Roubik Haroutunian on duduk, Layla Sakamoto Sharifi on violin, Marc Shulman on guitar and other fine musicians I simply don’t have room to mention.
Jostojoo is simply a triumph of a jumping off point for Ms. Khadem’s solo career.