All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced "Musica NA", a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

Artist Profiles: Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek was born in 1951 in Adana, Turkey to a musical family who nurtured his precocious talents. At the age of eight he began his musical career by developing proficiency on the kaval a small diatonic flute. “My brother was a born musician,” Faruk recalls. “He was really my guru my inspiration.” His brother Hadji played the flute but as he grew up Faruk found himself drawn to other instruments as well.

At the same time, Omar studied religion with thoughts of becoming a cleric or Imam. His musical interests were being nurtured by his older brother and by a sympathetic uncle who owned a music store and who provided lessons. “He had a music store and he also had another job during the day. So he told me to come after school open the store and – in exchange – he gave me lessons.”

While working in the store Omar Faruk learned the intricate rhythms of Turkish music how to read scales and other rudiments. He was trained on and eventually mastered several instruments: ney (bamboo flute), zurna (double-reed oboe like instrument with buzzing tone), the baglama (long-necked lute), the ud (the Middle Eastern lute), as well as percussion. By the age of twelve he began performing professionally at local hot spots.

Because it was a border town,” Faruk recalls, “Philosophers artists actors and all other members of the cultural intelligentsia were attracted there. This explains why so many great musicians have come from my town. My city was rich with cultural opportunities so I was very lucky.”

In 1967, upon turning sixteen he moved to Istanbul where he and his brother spent the following decade as in-demand session musicians. Omar Faruk stayed true to his folkloric roots but during this period of frenetic session work in the metropolitan music scene he explored Arabesque, Turkish and Western styles and the compositional potential of the recording studio. In Istanbul he also met the Mevlevi Dervishes, the ancient Sufi order of Turkey. He did not join the order but the head Neyzen (ney player) Aka Gunduz Kutbay became another source of inspiration. Omar Faruk was profoundly influenced by their mystical approach and fusion of sound and spirit. During that time he was introduced to Hatha Yoga and eventually to Tai Chi and Chi Qong which he continues to practice daily.
Omar Faruk’s skills in the studio blossomed in Istanbul playing with some of the leading Turkish musicians of the day including Orhan Gencebay flute and saxophone player Ismet Siral percussionist Burhan Tonguc and singers Ahmet Sezgin, Nuri Sesiguzel, Mine Kosan and Huri Sapan to name a few.

After establishing himself as one of the top session musicians in Turkey he began touring Europe and Australia. By 1971 at the age of 20 he made his first tour of the United States as a member of a Turkish classical/folk ensemble. It was while touring in the USA that he met his future wife Suzan and in 1976 he relocated to upstate New York to marry her.

Omar Faruk found very few options for a Turkish musician in the USA so he formed a band called the Sultans with an Egyptian keyboardist, a Greek bouzouki player and his brother-in-law on percussion. It started as a pop band but very quickly turned into a sort of Pan-Near Eastern ensemble. They began to attract some attention within the circle of Middle Eastern dance fans. They managed to record five albums during this time but Omar Faruk was still unknown outside his local musical community.

This was all about to change with the fateful meeting with Brian Keane in 1988. Keane released an album in 1988, Suleyman the Magnificent. A film was being made about the Ottoman emperor Suleyman to coincide with the opening of an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brian Keane was hired to do the soundtrack. “I knew I wanted to incorporate Turkish instruments and players,” he recalls, “but the Met saddled me with a bunch of professors; all intellect and no emotion.”

Desperate to move the recording along, Keane called Arif Mardin, the legendary Turkish producer of the Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin and so many others and asked if he knew any Turkish musicians. Mardin didn’t. “But two or three days later he called and said his cooks went to Fazil’s, a belly dance club in Manhattan. So I went for five nights and suffered through really bad belly dance music. Then one night Faruk shows up looking like he was right off the boat. (In fact he had just driven down from Rochester, New York, over 33 miles away.) You could tell immediately that he was different. His playing was so emotional; he really stood out.”

Keane had already seen the opening of the film and knew what he wanted, the mystical sound of the Sufi flute or ney added to his own synthesizer. As far as he knew, this combination hadn’t been done before, but Keane invited Tekbilek to his studio to try it. “When Faruk started playing,” he said, “the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It was magic from the start.” Their very first take became the opening of the movie and the recording. Faruk brought in some of his friends and the soundtrack was soon finished. In the following years, he and Keane would produce another six recordings, together launching Omar Faruk boldly into the world music scene.

Omar Faruk Tekbilek has since established himself as one of the world’s foremost exponents of Middle Eastern music. A multi-instrumentalist par excellence, he has collaborated with a number of leading musicians of international repute such as jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, keyboard player Karl Berger, former Cream rock drummer Ginger Baker, Ofra Haza, Simon Shaheen, Hossam Ramzy, Glen Velez, Bill Laswell, Mike Mainieri, Peter Erskine, Trilok Gurtu, Jai Uttal and Steve Shehan among others. He has contributed to numerous film and TV scores and to many recordings, including world sacred music albums and has been touring extensively throughout the Middle East, Europe, Australia, North and South America.

Alif (2001) was produced by Steve Shehan. Alif is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet and it also signifies the first letter for Allah. The seventh song and title track is a Sufi masterpiece of devotional love in all its forms – divine love romantic love and love of life. This is the theme running through the album’s 12 songs. The album includes Hadji Atmet Tekbilek, Mamak Khadem and Flamenco guitarist Jose Antonio Rodriguez Muñoz.

In 2005 he released The Tree of Patience which features Flamenco legend Enrique Morente, percussion master Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Ara Dinkjian, ambient music innovator Steve Roach and Hansan Isakkut. “I have a picture I carry in my mind,” Omar Faruk Tekbilek revealed. “I call it The Tree of Patience.”

Omar Faruk is the recipient of the Best Artist of the Turkish Music Award 2003 from the Turkish Writers Association. He is also the recipient of the US Golden Belly Musician-Of-The-Year-Award for 1998 and again for 1999.

Discography:

Suleyman The Magnificent (Celestial Harmonies, 1988)
Fire Dance (Celestial Harmonies, 1990)
Whirling (Celestial Harmonies, 1994)
Gypsy Fire, with Hagopian (Traditional Crossroads 1995)
Mystical Garden (Celestial Harmonies 1996)
Crescent Moon (Celestial Harmonies 1998)
One Truth (Hearts of Space 1999)
Dance into Eternity (Celestial Harmonies 2000)
One with Yuval Ron Yair Dalal (Magda 2003)
Alif – Love Supreme (Narada World Select 1198 2002)
The Tree of Patience (White Swan, 2005)
Rare Elements (Remixes) (5 Points Records 2009)
Kelebek – Butterfly soundtrack (Celestial Harmonies 2009)Love Is My Religion (Alif Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Omar Banaga

Omar Banaga

Amir Omar ‘Banaga’ was born in the west of Sudan and began his performance career singing on a children’s television program on Sudanese television. He also continued his musical studies at the Institute of Music and Drama with the goal of finding a way to represent the rich diversity of traditional rhythms and melodies he grew up with.

In 1986 he joined with other students to form a group Igd el Djilad a landmark ensemble dedicated both to preserving traditions of the past and also addressing social issues of poverty and oppression. The group became extremely popular but in the increasingly repressive milieu of the late 1980s and early 1900s its members faced harassment detention and interrogation.

Ultimately in 1997 Omar Benaga moved to the United States. It was a wrenching decision that he made along with other key Igd el Djilad members.

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Mames Babegenush Adds Strings

Mames Babegenush – With Strings

Mames Babegenush – With Strings (Galileo Records, 2017)

Mames Babegenush is an award-winning klezmer music band from Denmark. On their new album With Strings, Mames Babegenush goes beyond klezmer, exploring the traditional musics of northern and eastern Europe.

As the album title indicates, the brass and woodwind-fueled Mames Babegenush collaborates with a string ensemble featuring violins and cellos.

The lineup include Emil Goldschmidt on clarinet; Lukas Bjørn Rande on saxophone; Bo Rande on flügelhorn; Nicolai Kornerup on accordeon; Andreas Møllerhøj on bass; and Morten Ærø on drums. The Livestrings ensemble includes Andrea Gyarfas Brahe on violin; Lisa Marie Vogel on violin; Sidsel Most on bratsch; Samira Dayyani on cello; and Live Johansson on cello.

With Strings is a vibrant album that takes the listener on a wild ride throughout klerzmer music and beyond.

Buy With Strings in Europe

Buy With Strings in the rest of the world

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The Sky & Prairie, a Spectacular Production

The Grasslands Ensemble & Daniel Ho – The Sky & Prairie (Wind Music, 2017)

The Sky & Prairie is a remarkable production that brings together the talents of Inner Mongolian act The Grasslands Ensemble (天草之間遊牧樂團)and Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso, producer and composer Daniel Ho. The project was envisioned by Taiwanese record company Wind Music. The label’s Judy Wu produced the album.

The album features new versions of traditional Mongolian, Buryat, Barga, Manchurian, Evenk and Daur folk songs performed by musicians based in Hulunbuir, in Inner Mongolia’s prairie region. The artists represent a wide range of ethnicities, including Mongolian, Manchurian, Evenk, Daur, Russian and Han Chinese.

Daniel Ho composed the opening song and participates throughout the album playing ukulele and piano.

On The Sky & Prairie you’ll listen to various traditional instruments such as the iconic morin khuur (horse-head fiddle), Central Asian lutes and jaw harps along with conventional singing and throat singing.

The Hulunbuir-based ensemble includes Borjigin Hasibatu on vocals; Qiqigema on vocals; Bayinhehe on vocals; Han Mou Ren on the rare chaoer (Mongolian bowed instrument) and morin khuur; Tamir Hargana on tsuur and throat singing; and the Hasar Band: Yimin on morin khuur and backing vocals; Cai Yi-Fei on morin khuur, tsuur flute, backing vocals; Bao Wuyunbilige on lead vocals and tovshuur (thorat singing); Wang Jian on doshpuluur (a long-necked lute) and backing vocals; Aqitu on lead vocals, percussion and amen khuur (jaw harp); and Bao Yue-Yong on morin khuur.

The packaging is stunning. The CD is included in a hardcover book with a beautifully designed book that contains biographies, photos and credits in English and Chinese.

 

 

The Sky & Prairie is a splendid recording featuring exquisite versions of timeless folk songs from Central Asian regions.

 

 

Buy The Grasslands Ensemble & Daniel Ho – The Sky & Prairie

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Artist Profiles: Old Blind Dogs

Old Blind Dogs

 

Over the years Old Blind Dogs have evolved and grown into one of Scotland’s favorite folk bands. In the early days, Dave Francis was involved on percussion and Carmen Higgins on fiddle. In 1992 Davie Cattenach joined the band and they toured as a four piece and recorded four great CDs with Scotland’s record label KRL – New Tricks, Close to the Bone, Tall Tails and Legacy.

In 1996 Fraser Fifield became the fifth member of the Old Blind Dogs adding to the bands cutting edge sound with his tasty jazz licks on the sax and his superb playing of the small pipes. Their first album as a quintet titled Five aptly enough and released in 1997 – completed their five-album deal with KRL. Then in early 1997 Graham ‘Mop’ Youngson (ex – Wolfstone) replaced Davie Cattenach with his funky hard-hitting rhythm kit. The band was busy in 1998 touring in the United States of America, Germany, Spain, Denmark and the UK.

1999 saw the Old Blind Dogs embracing the New Year with a new and evolved line up. Ian Benzie retired from the band in January. Ian was the lead singer with OBD since the band was born in 1990 and was soon missed by the band members and fans. Fraser Fifield also moved on to develop other musical projects. The Old Blind Dogs continue on with the introduction of another great Scottish singer and songwriter Jim Malcolm and Rory Campbell (Deaf Sheppard) on small pipes and whistles.

 

Old Blind Dogs

 

Jim Malcolm is a performer of traditional Scots music and song with particular strong links to the ballads of Perthshire and Angus. In addition he is a fine exponent of simultaneous guitar and harmonica playing. His debut album Sconeward was well received by critics both at home and abroad. A new album Rohallion went straight to the top of Greentraxs best seller’s list.

Piper Rory Campbell will be most recognized through his contributions in another great Scottish Folk band – Deaf Sheppard.

The World’s Room was released with Green Linnet Records in October 1999.

The lineup of the band has changed frequently with only Jonny Hardie (Fiddle mandolin and backing vocals) remaining from the original group.

Discography:

New Tricks (KRL 1992)
Close to the Bone (KRL 1993)
Tall Tails (KRL 1994)
Legacy (KRL 1995)
Five (1997)
Live (1999)
The World’s Room (Green Linnet Records 1999)
Fit (Green Linnet Records 2001)
The Gab o Mey (Green Linnet Records 2003)
Play Live (Green Linnet Records 2004)
Four On The Floor (Compass Records 2007)
Wherever Yet May Be (Compass Records 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Okay Temiz

Okay Temiz

 

Okay Temiz was born in 1939 near Istanbul, Turkey. His family moved to Ankara, where he grew up. Temiz studied drumms and percussion at the Ankara conservatory. He began his professional career as a member of show groups with which he toured North Africa, the Near East and all of Turkey. In Europe, Okay Temiz felt especially at ease in Scandinavia and adopted both Sweden and Finland as second homes. At an early stage he regarded himself as an ‘international’ – what today would be called a world musician – and succeeded in bringing together widely differing musical influences.

In the late 1960s, American trumpet player Don Cherry – who took great interest in African and Asian cultures – heard the Okay Temiz play in Stockholm. The incident sparked a collaboration which would last many years. In the mid-1970s, Temiz founded the Ensemble Oriental Wind, a regular and successful guest on the concert stages of Europe throughout the years of its existence. Oriental Wind is described as ethno jazz or world jazz.

 

 

Just as he has often invited European musicians to make guest performances in Turkey, Temiz has repeatedly introduced Eastern musicians to Europe primarily people whose musical roots are in the folklore of their country.

 

Okay Temiz

 

The zurna has accompanied Temiz throughout his life; its sounds being associated with the most exciting incidents of his childhood – celebrations dances and holidays. In the 1970s Temiz frequently performed in Scandinavia with Binali Selman, a renowned zurna player from Eastern Turkey. In the 1980s he worked with another zurna player in Stockholm – Ziya Aytekin from the northeastern part of their homeland. In 1996/7 following his return to Turkey, Temiz met a young zurna player from the country’s west Ahmet Özden whom he regards as one of the greatest living masters of this difficult instrument.

In 1998, Temiz he recorded the album Karsilama with davul drums and zurnas. He carried out a similar project in Finland in 1995 with his Magnetic Band, a Scandinavian-Turkish ensemble.

Okay Temiz regularly presents percussion workshops for both adults and children.

Discography:

Drummer of two worlds (Finnadar Records, 1975)
Yonca (YCS, 1976)
Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1977)
Live in der Balver Höhle, with Oriental Wind (JG Records, 1978)
Zikir, with Oriental Wind (Sun Records, 1979)
Chila-Chila, with Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1979)
Bazaar, with Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1981)
Live in Bremen, with Oriental Wind (JA&RO Records, 1981)
Life road, with Oriental Wind (JA&RO Records, 1983)
Sankirna, with Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1984)
Derviş (Ada Müzik, 1989)
Misket (Sonet, 1989)
Istanbul da Eylül (La Lichere, 1989)
Fis fis tziganes (La Lichere, 1989)
Magnetic dance (Bayar Müzik Üretim, 1990)
Green wave (Uzelli, 1992)
In Finland 1995 (Ano Kato Records, 1995)
Karsilama (Ada Müzik, 1998)
Black spot (Kala, 1998)
Black Sea Art Project (Ada Müzik, 2001)
Darbukas & Zurnas (Ada Müzik, 2002)
Mehteran (Ada Müzik, 2002)
Kuzeyden Güneye Yansımalar “Senfoni” (Ada Müzik, 2002)
Okay Temiz ve Ritim Atölyesi (Ada Müzik, 2002)

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Artist Profiles: Ola Bäckström

Fiddler Ola Bäckström was born in 1959 in Dalarna, Sweden. He is known for his work with The Simon Simonsson Kvartet, Den Fule (Quake NSD61), Boot (Virvla NSD639) and Traton (with Carina Normansson and Maria Jonsson).

Ola plays the viola d’amore”, a non-standard version of the Baroque instrument”, which has 5 playing strings and 4 resonating strings. The fiddle head features a dragon head carving”, a replica of an old Swedish fiddle. The inking on the side copies a Stradivarius violin.

Ola Bäckström formed Anglo-Swedish band Swap in 1995 along with British musicians Karen Tweed (accordion) and Ian Carr (guitar) and Swedish artist and Carina Normansson (fiddle, vocals).

Discography:

Ola Bäckström (1994)
SWÅP (Northside Records, 1997)
Sic (Northside Records, 1999)
Mosquito Hunter (2002)
Du Da (Northside Records, 2005)
Boggdansen (2005)

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Artist Profiles: Ojos de Brujo

Ojos de Brujo in 2002

Ojos de Brujo was a flamenco roots band based in Barcelona, Spain. The band caused a stir in international music circles in 2003-2004 with its flamenco fusion. The group whose name means ‘witch eyes’ created a popular mix of flamenco with funk, samba, reggae and other forms of world music. One of Spain’s most popular live musical acts at the time, the group was composed of musicians on flamenco guitar, bass and percussion; a DJ and a dancer and featured the captivating lead vocals of Marina Abad.

Said Xavi Turull the group’s percussionist: “We live in Barcelona and we live strong – always out in the streets so we’ve always lived rumba catalana and flamenco puro really strongly. But when Marina came into the group we became even more focused on flamenco. Our roots got stronger and we became more confident when we experimented with other styles. We became more solid – more of a band.”

The second album Bari took its name from a word in Caló – the Gypsy (Roma) dialect of Spain – that means roughly ‘finding the groove in life’ – the same way you do in music. Xavi Turull explained: “Bari is a word that Ramon, who’s Gypsy, picked up from his grandmother. It’s kind of like the feeling that everything in life is working right. That everything feels good.”

Techari came out in 2006 and was released in North America on February 2007 on Six Degrees Records. It is an ambitious self-produced journey recorded both abroad in Cuba and New York as well as in a studio at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains close to the birthplace of Salvador Dali. “One of the pressures of success is to look for ways to stay true,” said Xavi Turull. “And we are really trying to find a way to be free. That’s why the new album is called Techari because it means ‘free’ in the gypsy language.”

Work on Techari started at the end of March 2005 and was completed at the end of October. In between the band did two international tours which stop-started the recording process. “Recording and touring at the same time was a little crazy but the result is amazing,” added Xavi. “We are finally at a point where the sound is exactly the way we want.”

Special guests included Faada Freddy from Senegalese hip hop collective Daara J, Asian Dub Foundation’s Prithpal Rajput and Nitin Sawhney, South Indian fusion artist and British TV star (who returned the favor after Ojos de Brujo collaborated on two tracks for his album Philtre).

Cuban pianist Roberto Carcasses also made an appearance alongside respected flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela and Cuban tres/flamenco guitar player Raul Rodriguez from Son de la Frontera.

Cuban drums were used in bulerias, funk was layered onto rumba catalana and dhol drums add an Eastern flavor to the mix. However the band was quick to point out that these collaborations were the result of new friendships and not any cynical marketing strategy.

The Techari bonus CD-ROM featured work from fourteen illustrators from around the world, each represent the individual nature of the fourteen tracks fifteen translations of lead singer Marina’s emotionally-charged lyrics and three full-length videos.

 

 

 

Lenacay, Calima, Marinah and Kejaleo are bands started by former Ojos de Brujo members.

Discography

Vengue (1999)
Bari (2002)
Bari: Remezclas de la Casa (2003)
Techari­ (2006)
Techari­ Live (2007) CD/DVD
Techari­ Remixes (2007)
Aocana (WEA Spain, 2009)
Corriente vital 10 años (WEA Spain, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Noam Pikelny

Noam Pikelny

Noam Pikelny was born February 27, 1981, in Chicago, Illinois. He is one of the finest banjo musicians in the United States. In 2004 he released his first solo album titled In the Maze. In 2010 he was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass earning him an appearance on the popular American TV program The Late Show with David Letterman.

In 2011 Pikelny released his second album Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail. The album hit both the Billboard Top Heatseekers and Bluegrass album charts and was the focus of a Funny or Die parody video starring Pikelny with appearances from Steve Martin, Ed Helms, Earl Scruggs, Chris Thile, Gillian Welch and others.

Noam Pikelny works regularly with well-known artists beyond the bluegrass world including Punch Brothers Wilco Fiona Apple Norah Jones and Jon Brion for the soundtrack to This is 4 a feature song on The Hunger Games soundtrack and a collaboration with Marcus Mumford for the Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis.

In 2013 Noam Pikelny released Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, an interpretation of traditional Bluegrass through a bold complete adaptation of one of the most influential instrumental bluegrass records of all-time. Joining Pikelny on this album are some the best instrumentalists in bluegrass: Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), and Mike Bub (bass).

The original album Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe was recorded in 1976 five years before Pikelny was even born. It contains twelve classic tunes written by the father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe (1911-1996) and performed by his longtime fiddler Kenny Baker (1926-2012). While many outstanding musicians worked for Bill Monroe, Monroe would introduce Kenny Baker to audiences as “the best in bluegrass.”

Baker’s fiddle provided an elegant and refined voice to Monroe’s music and Pikelny accurately transposes Baker’s versions to the banjo note-for-note track-by-track. It is the first bluegrass record that remakes an entire album in sequence though never turning into an exercise in musical impersonation; instead Pikelny uses the Monroe instrumentals as blueprints and catalysts for his own improvisations and those of his band.

Discography:

In the Maze (Compass Records 2004)
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, with Chris Thile (Sugar Hill 2006)
Punch, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch 2008)
Antifogmatic, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch 2010)
Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail (Compass Records 2011)
Who’s Feeling Young Now?, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch 2012)
Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe (Compass Records 2013)
Universal Favorite (Rounder Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Niyaz

Niyaz – Photo by Olaf Heine

Vas vocalist Azam Ali; Axiom of Choice’s multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian; and producer/remixer Carmen Rizzo joined forces to create a globe-spanning sound that the trio calls “folk music for the 21st century.” Known collectively as Niyaz, the trio represents the best of both traditional world music and electronic music.

With an ethereal beguiling sound that evokes centuries of women’s voices from medieval Europe to the modern Middle East , Azam Ali was half of the best-selling duo Vas (with percussionist Greg Ellis). Her singing has been heard in several major motion pictures including The Matrix: Revolutions and on many television programs such as Alias and The Agency.

Loga Ramin Torkian, whose band Axiom of Choice won much critical acclaim is deeply involved with the music of his homeland Iran. He is accomplished on the guitar the Turkish saz and electric guitarviol (a 14th century European bowed guitar) a traditional Persian lute as well as other Turkish and Kurdish instruments. Loga also uses the Persian classical repertoire known as the radif within his own compositions.

Carmen Rizzo has collaborated with a diverse range of artists including Seal, Alanis Morisette, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Khaled, Ekova and Cirque du Soleil as well as Paul Oakenfold, BT Esthero, Jem Alpha, Tiesto and Grant Lee Phillips.

For these three artists Niyaz represents a real departure from their usual avenues of artistic expression. Their first joint album weaves together ten beautiful mystical poems written by some of the greatest Sufi poets of all time with music accessible to a contemporary audience. Azam who was born in Iran but largely raised in India, sings in both Farsi (the Persian language) as well as in Urdu a language widely spoken in India and in Pakistan.

The music too represents cultural combinations of the highest order crossing back and forth over centuries of musical expression to combine ancient instruments rhythms and tonalities with brand new sounds. Mingling the textures of traditional acoustic music with new electronica Niyaz represents a finely-tuned balance that ushers in a new era of artistic possibilities for Iranian music.
Niyaz’s second CD, titled Nine Heavens came out in 2008. Nine Heavens was released as a double CD (featuring one disc of electronic and one disc of acoustic versions of the tracks).

Continuing to bridge the gap between traditional and modern world music Niyaz follows up 2005’s critically acclaimed and highly successful self-debut album with another recording of traditional sounds balanced tastefully with modern electronics.

Nine Heavens reveals a much more complex body of work featuring nine intricately carved original arrangements and compositions of traditional folk songs and mystical Sufi poems from Iran the Indian sub-continent and Turkey. With a strong emphasis on composition Niyaz centers on the deep interconnectedness between the music of Iran India and Turkey and delves further into the traditional melodies of these regions with outstanding performances by its core members as well as guest musicians of the highest caliber from these three traditions.

The lyrical framework for Nine Heavens once again features beautiful Persian and Urdu mystical poems by some of the greatest Sufi poets two original interpretations of traditional folk songs from Khorassan Iran and one soulful folk song from Maras Turkey. For the Iranian portion of the album Niyaz shift their focus from the beloved Sufi poet Rumi onto another great Iranian 13th century mystic/poet/musician Amir Khosrau Dehlavi who was born and raised in India and went on to become an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indian sub-continent where he is revered to this day by thousands. ForNiyaz Dehlavi?s work embodies the very spirit of their music which focuses on the timeless exchange between these two cultures. For the Urdu portion of the album Niyaz features Ghazals and Rubaiyats by renowned 18th century Sufi poets Khwaja Mir Dard and Hali.

Their 2012 album Sumud expands on the theme of the music and identity of Iranians living in exile while adding their new experiences and worldviews learned during their heavy touring through the Middle East in the past seven years. “We have now travelled across the world and those experiences have affected the journey that we are on and the direction we’ve taken on this album,” Ali said from her new home in Montreal. “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 wanting to tell our story and it has evolved into this humanitarian social message embracing regions around Iran.”

 

 

In 2013, Carmen Rizzo left the group.

Discography

Niyaz (Six Degrees, 2005)
Nine Heavens (Six Degrees, 2008)
Sumud (Six Degrees, 2012)
The Fourth Light (Six Degrees, 2015)

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