Sumud (Six Degrees Records, 2012)
With collaborative efforts like the self-titled Niyaz and Nine Heavens under their belts – not to mention solo recordings like From Night to the Edge of Day, Mehraab and Looking Through Leaves – Azam Ali, Loga Ramin Torkian and Carmen Rizzo, the trio behind Niyaz, are back with a new recording called Sumud out on the Six Degrees label.
Meaning steadfastness in Arabic, Sumud is a collection of new and refashioned traditional songs from Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Palestine and the Kurdish peoples. Dipping into the poetry of Baba Taher, Ashik Dertli and Kul Nesimi wrapped around musical compositions by Ms. Ali, Mr. Torkian and the Palestinian and Jordanian composer Naser Musa, Sumud finds solace in the steadfastness of the music or as Ms. Ali marks the symbolic philosophy of the title, “every human being should inherit the right to live with dignity and freedom upon the land on which they are born.” In essence, the music of Sumud becomes the plaintive nature of the struggle and the solace.
Ms. Ali explains, “We have now traveled across the world, and those experiences have affected the journey that we are on and the direction we’ve taken on this album. We’ve performed in the Kurdish parts of Turkey during times of major conflicts, as well as other parts of the Middle East. Obviously that has affected this project. We wanted to focus on the ethnic and religious minority groups in these regions, because they have really struggled to maintain their identity. it started from us wanted to tell our story, and it has evolved into this humanitarian social message, embracing regions around Iran.”
There’s nothing light or flirty about Sumud, no this recording is ripe and meaty, deliciously dark and utterly haunting from the opening “Parishaan” to the closing “Arzusun,” a tune from the Malatya province of Turkey.
Steeped in layers of keyboards and electronica provided by Carmen Rizzo and laced with Mr. Torkian’s saz, kamaan, robab, djumbush, lafta and guitar viol and Ms. Ali’s vocals, santoor and percussion, Sumud slides across the senses like a warm, fragrant wind.
Ripe with thick Middle Eastern rhythms tracks like “Sosin” and “Rah-e-vafa” possess an irresistible pull to the listener, of course if you add Ms. Ali’s sultry vocals against a backdrop of dazzling electronic well it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Other gems include the lushly worked “Mazaar,” based on an Afghan folk song from the Dari region, the Turkish inspired “Dertli” with its layered vocals, “Mazooz” from Iran and “Rayat al Sumud,” written by Naser Musa.
Adding to the sound of Sumud are Habib Meftah Boushehri on percussion, flute and vocals; Ulas Ozdemir on saz and vocals; Naser Musa on oud and vocals and Omer Avci on percussion.
Sumud is gorgeously powerful and artfully commanding in both content and intent and there’s not many recordings out there these days that could say the same. Sumud is proof that steadfastness needn’t be spare but utterly sumptuous.
Parishaan (Free download)
Niyaz Tour dates:
Sat 5/19/12 L’Astral, Montreal, Canada
Thu 5/24/12 Festival Mawazine, Rabat, Morocco
Fri 7/20/12 Festival Paleo, Nyon, Switzerland
Sun 7/22/12 Drom (The East Village), New York, NY
Wed 7/25/12 Kennedy Plaza (Venue Subject To Change Pending On Weather), Atlantic City, NJ
Fri 7/27/12 Faerieworlds, Eugene, OR
Sat 8/4/12 Grand Performances (Free Concert), Los Angeles, CA
Sun 8/5/12 Yoshis, San Francisco, CA
Thu 8/9/12 TBA, Irvine, CA
Sat 8/11/12 KP Center, Seattle, WA