One (Ceres Records CER001, 2008)
I suppose the simplest way to describe composer and musician Jamshied Sharifi’s latest offering entitle One is wonderful, wonderful and more wonderful. Known for melding together Middle Eastern, African and western musical styles, Sharifi goes even further on One by taking some gigantic leaps across the musical map to cross-pollinate different world music traditions to create something entirely new. “I wanted to put together singers and musicians who wouldn’t normally perform together and see where that led,” Sharifi says. He goes on to admit, “I was intentionally disrespectful of the world music ’boundaries,’ hoping that the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect would prevail.” The result is masterful and elegantly wrought.
Pooling diverse and spectacular talents like singer Yungchen Lhamo from Tibet, vocalist Abdoulaye Diabate and brother and kora player Mamadou Diabate from Mali, vocalist Paula Cole, Morocco’s Gnawan master musician and singer Hassan Hakmoun, Irish whistle player Seamus Egan, vocalist Sussan Deyhim from Iran and vocalist Vishal Vaid from northern India, Sharifi, who composed all the music on One, weaves a tapestry of sound that is impossible to unravel. Richly textured and sumptuously layered, Sharifi’s compositions cross over into a borderless, cinematic dreamland.
Title track “One” is shot through with the imaginative blend of vocals Yungchen Lhamo and Abdoulaye Diabate against a backdrop of clarinet, sax, oud, bass, talking drum, durdo, bombo rebolo, dumbek and Mr. Sharifi on synthesizer, bougadabou and trombone. The sound is expansive and breezy. There is no cheating and no short cut taken by Sharifi as he ferries listeners through the uncharted territory of “Setaa” with Sussan Deyhim’s plumy vocals and thick Middle Eastern sound, or the mystical musical landscape created on “The Ship Sails; The Ocean is Gone” with Vishal Vaid’s commanding vocals. “A Charlotte Sky,” featuring vocals by Paula Cole and Hassan Hakmoun, is simply stunning with Skúli Severrisson on bass and acoustic bass guitar, Benjamin Wittman on udu and Jamshied Sharifi on synthesizer, mbira, ebow stick and tbola.
“Darfur Is Burning,” with brothers Abdoulaye and Mamadou Diabate about the horrors of the genocide in Darfur, is woven together with lush layers of kora, viola, oud, talking drum, dumbek, cajon and bata that soars with Abdoulaye’s plaintive vocals. Other tracks include the sharply elegant “Fereshteh” with vocals by Ms. Lhamo, Michiyo Yagi on koto, Mr Sverrisson on bass and Mr. Sharifi on synthesizer; the dreamy “Ghanima” with the lacy workings of koto and oud against Ms Seyhim’s vocals; and the delightful “My Grandfather, The Tree” with Seamus Egan playing whistle against the lazy circles of Ms. Cole’s sweet vocals. “Requiem,” a track devoted to the victims of the September 11th attacks, is hauntingly rich with Hassan Hakmoun’s vocals against a curtain of sound created out of synthesizer, ebow stick, violin and the ‘pygmy’ vocals of Miyki Sakamoto and Layla Sakamoto Sharifi.
With the creation of One Mr. Sharifi has thrown away the geographical map where musical traditions meet borders and we are all the better for his leap into the unknown.