Safa (Farsi): means inner purity, sincerity and sincere affection. The Vancouver ensemble Safa comprised of Puerto Rican percussionist Sal Ferreras, Quebecois jazz clarinetist Francois Houle and
Iranian vocalist and tar/setar player Amir Koushkani compose music that would bring delight to the master Persian Poet Jelaluddin Rumi’s ears. The bulk of Safa’s recording, Alight focuses on Persian classical music, often recalling the California based Persian musical group, Axiom of Choice.
The tangy sound of the tar (lute) marries an emotive, throaty clarinet that is accompanied by a
vibrant palette of rhythmic textures and topped off with Koushkani’s stunning vocals. Safa with its varying musical influences, passion for Persian music and improvisational jazz creates a multicultural and spiritual space where anything can happen and usually does. Listeners will immerse themselves in Persian poetry that speaks of various kinds of intoxication as well as, dissonant elements found in experimental music. The whimsical Turkish Nihawend Lunga, masterful traditional Persian Chahar Mezrab and the Judeo-Arabic Ninavae promise to intoxicate listeners’ ears.
The music on Alight breaks through cultural and language barriers, despite the multicultural musicians’ origins. According to the CD liner notes, speaks about the origins of Safa. “After several years of study and work in Persian music, fate took me far away from my homeland and roots of my music. I found myself in a country where various cultures and traditions come together and I was given the opportunity to perhaps communicate with others through the language of music.”
Fate also played a part when Ferreras, Houle and Koushkani met and blended elements of improvisational jazz, Latin and Persian musical traditions. And all three musicians have released several recordings, performing with other musical artists.
This trio of master musicians honor the Persian tradition, but you can also find tracks on the CD that feature a duo with clarinet and a variety of percussive instruments (Peruvian cajon, udu, bata drums, and Philippine kulintang). The compositions, Aurora and Shadi fall on the dissonant side of the tracks and aren’t too pleasing to the ears. Epilogue showcases Ferreras percussion performing along side Koushkani’s tar and this track feels less experimental than Aurora and Shadi. However, I favor the Persian compositions, especially the opener, Chahar Mezrab and also, Sufinameh, Saghinameh, Drunk and Whisper of Love.
In honor of the Iranian new year. Compliments ofCranky Crow World Music.