World Music Central presents the Top 20 World Music Albums of 2019 selected by our staff. Our favorites include the best 20 overall and best regional albums.
Kayhan Kalhor, Rembrandt Frerichs, Tony Overwater and Vinsent Planjer – It’s Still Autumn (Kepera Records/Challenge Records International, 2019)
Somewhere in the throes of baking in the last of the summer heat thoughts of autumn arise. The lure of the pungency of dries leaves, that crystalline light that belongs to those first crisp mornings and the warm glow of that last blast before the dark of winter takes hold might just seem like property of experience or childhood memory, but what if you could capture autumn in music? What would be the soundtrack to autumn? Lucky for you I think I’ve got just the right soundtrack for you autumn listening.
The Challenge Records International release of It’s Still Autumn is the quintessential soundtrack for your autumn lolling and reflection. And, let me caution here that once you open yourself to this glorious collection of tracks it is all about the music so it’s best to sit, listen and take the ride.
Interestingly enough our autumn pleasure soundscape is the result of a collaboration between the Iranian kamanche player Kayhan Kalhor and the Dutch jazz group The Rembrandt Frerichs Trio. Music fans might know musician and composer Mr. Kalhor ‘s work with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and recordings such as The Rain with Ghazal, The Wind and Hawniyaz. The equally impressive music pedigree of musician and composer Rembrandt Frerichs has recordings such as Ordem E Progesso Vol. 1 & 2, Levantasy with Yoram Lachish, Tony Overwater and Vinsent Planjer and The Contemporary to his credit. Musician and composer Tony Overwater’s discography includes Changes in Time, Ellington Suites with the Tony Overwater Trio with Calefax and Jungleboldie with the Tony Overwater Trio. Musician and composer Vinsent Planjer has appeared on Levantasy, Continental and A Long Story Short recordings.
With Mr. Kalhor on kamanche, Mr. Frerichs on fortepiano and harmonium, Mr. Overwater on violone and double bass and Mr. Planjer on his own crafted percussion setup called the whisper kit, It’s Still Autumn lays down a soundscape so finely crafted that if you were to close your eyes listening your mind’s eye would catch the swirl of dried leaves or the dawning light catching the dew. It’s Still Autumn is where everything is in its proper place, where curlicues of Iranian kamanche rise on the winds of fortepiano against the thrum of double bass and polished off by the tang of percussion or the tinkling of bells. It is neither wholly jazz or wholly world music – it’s the best combination it is that out-of-time, other-worldly soundscape fueled by its own goodness.
Divided into two sections of Dawn and Dusk, It’s Still Autumn is cleverly crafted where one track simply flows into another, so the opening “Dawn-Introduction” with fortepiano, violone and cascade of wind chime bells sets up the anticipation of the full light with kamanche before flowing neatly into “Dew Drops” which in turn leaps headlong into the spectacular that is the bright and joyful “Kayhan’s Chahar” with some pretty stunning double bass, fortepiano and kamanche goodness. And, that’s only three tracks in. There’s the serene sorrow of the kamanche on “Still” and the elegantly smooth “Offering.”
If the music hasn’t hooked you by this point seek professional help, but first you should check out the second section of It’s Still Autumn entitle Dusk. The eerie musical threads on the opening of Dusk’s “Introduction” snare the listener before the track slowly unfurls into a reflective mood awaiting the gloaming by way of achingly lovely kamanche lines before evolving into the melancholic mood of “Autumn” led by kamanche and laced by double bass and fortepiano. “Autumn Winds” is perhaps the most strongly jazz flavored and boasts some truly delicious double bass, fortepiano and percussion work as the track takes wild flight on the autumn winds. Closing track “Long Story Short” is simply masterful in its musicianship as it reaches out and snatches colored leaves from the wind and conjures up the very edges of light before it slips into the dark.
It’s Still Autumn is the mosaic of leaves under foot, that tang of wood smoke in the air and the golden moments of last warm light before winter. Yeah, it’s that good.
The World Music Expo (WOMEX) announced today that Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor (Iran/USA) is the winner of the WOMEX Artist Award 2019.
Kalhor is set to receive the prominent award at the 25th anniversary edition of WOMEX in Tampere, Finland, on Sunday, October 27, 2019. Kayhan Kalhor will perform as a duo together with Erdal Erzincan on bağlama in what will be the final concert of WOMEX 2019.
Kayhan Kalhor stated: “Receiving the WOMEX Artist Award means so much to me. The award is recognition of the rich culture of my homeland Iran and an ageless Persian art that thrives and is beloved throughout the world. As forces arise across the globe and push for divisiveness, borders and intolerance, music brings us together and reminds us of our common humanity. As a citizen of the world, I am humbled by this recognition and stand with artists whose music fosters unity.”
The WOMEX 2019 closing ceremony will also include the Award for Professional Excellence and the annual Label Award, both of which are yet to be announced.
Created and led by Kayhan Kalhor and Shujaat Husain Khan, the Ghazal Ensemble has created an Indo-Persian fusion which blends two distinctive classical musics: Persian (Iranian) and Hindustani (North Indian). Intertwined for centuries in Northern India, these musics share some formal elements which allow for an exquisite and harmonious dialogue between the two traditions.
Shujaat Husain Khan, son and disciple of master sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan, is one of the great artists of North Indian classical music today. (Both father and son played to a full house at the Flint Center as part of the Classical Music of India concert presented by Arts & Lectures last season). A sitar virtuoso, Khan is also the group’s vocalist, blending his gentle baritone with the melodic lines of the instruments.
Kayhan Kalhor, one of the most important Iranian musicians of his generation, is a virtuoso of the kamancheh and setar. Improvisation lies at the heart of both Indian and Persian classical music. According to Kalhor, “The music that we play together reflects the improvisatory styles of our cultures. This means taking a small idea or melodic form or phrase and developing it into something much larger, beyond its primary character.”
The Persian and Indian traditions are, in a sense, musical cousins. In fact, there is a connection that goes beyond the notes themselves: Several centuries of Moghul rule in northern India left a strong imprint on Hindustani music: a result of the mysticism, poetry, and musical subtleties of the Persian language and culture. The name Ghazal reflects that link: in the Persian tradition, a ghazal is a specific genre of poetry, characterized by an unusual blend of ecstatic spirituality and earthy desires. In India, ghazal has evolved into a form of semi-classical music that remains popular to this day, and usually takes the form of a love ballad.
Kamancheh virtuoso and composer Kayhan Kalhor was born in Tehran (Iran). He began his musical studies at the age of seven. Kayhan Kalhor performed with the prestigious National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran and the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center while still a teenager.
Deeply devoted to the Iranian classical repertoire (radif), Kayhan Kalhor was further inspired to study regional folkloric traditions, which added additional dimensions to his improvisations and acted as springboards for cross-cultural explorations.
Since then, Kalhor has performed and recorded with Iran’s greatest instrumentalists and singers, including Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri, and toured the world as a soloist.
He co-founded the Dastan, Ghazal: Persian & Indian Improvisations, and Masters of Persian Music ensembles and has appeared with the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestre National de Lyon.
He was the featured soloist on the soundtrack of Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, a score on which he collaborated with Osvaldo Golijov.
Kayhan Kalhor is an original member of Yo-Yo Ma’s acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble and his works are heard on all of the ensemble’s albums.
The Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition, in Shanghai, China, awarded Kayhor the 2018 Isaac Stern Human Spirit award. The award celebrates individuals and groups, from any part of the world, who have made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of humanity through music.
In 2019, Kayhor won the WOMEX (World Music Expo) Artist Award. At the award ceremony, Kayhor stated: “I am very touched and honored and it’s nice to be appreciated during your lifetime when you can see it. However, I don’t see this as a personal achievement. I think a lot of wisdom, history and hard work went into this and I represent the great Iranian musician community here. I am honored to represent them.
Kayhan Kalhor added: “On behalf of the Iranian music community, I dedicate this award to Mohammad Reza Shajarian, the great master of Persian music who has been fighting a nasty illness for the past few years. We need his voice and we need him to be with us, so we wish him well and I hope the musical community accepts this from me.”
* Eastern Apertures (1995)
* Lost Songs of the Silk Road, Ghazal (Shanachie, 1997)
* Scattering Stars Like Dust (Traditional Crossroads, 1998)
* As Night Falls on the Silk Road, with Ghazal (Shanachie, 1998)
* Through Eternity, with Dastan (Sounds True, 1999)
* Moon Rise over the Silk Road, with Ghazal (Shanachie, 2000)
* Night Silence Desert, with Mohammed Reza Shajarian (Traditional Crossroads, 2000)
* Caravan, with Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch Records, 2000)
* Silk Road Journeys, with Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble (Sony Classical, 2001)
* Without You, with Masters of Persian Music (World Village, 2002)
* The Rain, with Ghazal(ECM, 2003)
* Beyond the Horizon, Silk Road Ensemble (Sony Classical, 2004)
* In the Mirror of the Sky, with Ali Akbar Moradi (World Village, 2004)
* Faryad, with Masters of Persian Music (World Village, 2005)
* The Wind, with Erdal Erzincan (ECM, 2006)
* New Impossibilities, with Silk Road Ensemble (Sony Classical, 2007)
* Silent City (World Village, 2008)
* Off the Map, with Silk Road Ensemble (2009)
* Voices of the Shades, Madjid Khaladj (2011)
* I Will Not Stand Alone, with Ali Bahrami Fard (World Village, 2012)
* Kula Kulluk Yakişir Mi, with Erdal Erzincan (2013)
* Sing me home, with Silk Road Ensemble (Sony Masterworks, 2016)
* Hawiniyaz (Harmonia Mundi, 2016)
* It’s Still Autumn , with Rembrandt Frerichs, Tony Overwater and Vinsent Planjer (Kepera Records/Challenge Records International, 2019)
The Music of Strangers, with Silk Road Ensemble (2016)
Web site: www.kayhankalhor.net
Whistesburg, USA – The Association for Independent Music (AFIM) has announced the finalists for the Indie Awards, the most important music awards for the independent record industry. In the contemporary world music category, the 5 contenders are:
Tom Landa & the Paperboys
In the traditional world music category, the finalists are:
Kayhan Kalhor & M.R. Shajarian
Various Artists (Matouqin)
The winners will be announced at the indie Awards Show on May 5th at the Regal Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles during AFIM’s annual convention.