Oleg Fesov is a musician from Tajikistan who composes and arranges his songs in addition to performing. Despite living as an immigrant, Fesov still feels strongly connected to his home country and his ancestors from the Pamir Mountains. His people are Badakhshani, an ethnic group of some 35 people who are divided by the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.
Fesov had to leave his home country because of an ethnic war that had been raging there for several years. His studio and equipment were looted and Fesov had to flee to Moscow where he continues the job of preserving his country’s rich musical tradition.
The album Lalaiki Pamir presents the musical traditions and ideas of Badakhshan (Tajikistan) and the Pamir Mountains. The traditional eastern string and percussion instruments such as sitar, rubab, ud dombra, various drums and tablas play an important role in the music of Oleg Fesov combined with his intensive and emotion-loaded voice. All lyrics are in Tajik or Shugnan languages.
Oleg Fesov was discovered at the huge “Voice of Asia” festival in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. His international exposure came when German label Blue Flame released a series of recordings with the top performers that participated in that festival. American audiences found out about Oleg Fesov in 1995 when one of his songs, “Marav,” was included in the three-CD world fusion boxed set titled Planet Soup (Ellipsis Arts CD 345) released by Ellipsis Arts and produced by world music producer and journalist Angel Romero.
Abduvali Abdurashidov created the Academy of Shashmaqam to offer rigorous training to a highly select group of talented young performers. The center receives support from the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia (AKMICA).
By reducing his ensemble to the essentials: a few voices, frame drum and two or three long-necked lutes, including the rarely heard sato (bowed tanbur) Abdurashidov achieves a remarkable clarity of texture and suppleness of form. His work instills new life in one of the great musical traditions of the Islamic world and confirms the important place of Shashmaqam in any musical map of Eurasia.
Latvian world jazz ensemble Baraka focuses on the ancient Persian ghazal tradition that spread throughout Central Asia (Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan). Three female vocalists appear on Gole Sangam: Tajik traditional singer Zarina Tadjibaeva, Baraka’s regular soloist Devika Evsikova and spoken word artist Iran Raihi, who recites verses written by contemporary Iranian poets.
Even though Baraka specializes in what they call ethno jazz, this project sounds like a smooth jazz ensemble backing the vocalists. The fusion could have worked better with less saxophone and some additional traditional instruments. Aside from the vocals and percussion, there is barely any Central Asian musical influence.
Personnel: Zarina Tadjibaeva on lead vocals; Devika Evsikova on vocals, bass, Chapman stick, fretless bass, Rhodes piano; Iran Raihi on spoken word; Deniss Pashkevich on saxophone and flute; Artem Sarvi on Hammond organ, Rhodes and synthesizer; Egor Kovaikov on acoustic and electric guitar, sitar; Dmitry Evsikov on bongo, conga, darbuka, ghatam, clay pot, daff; Marcis Vasilevskis on electric guitar; Vilnis Kundrats on tenor saxophone; Artur Kupetov on electric guitar; Madars Kalniņš on Hammond organ and synthesizer; Zigmund Kukovsky on bass; Janis Amantov on trumpet.
In the southeast of Tajikistan, where the majestic Pamir Mountains reach heights only slightly lower than those of the Himalayas, local traditions of devotional song, mystical music, and dance have flourished among mountain-dwelling Pamiri peoples. Together with Badakhshan’s rugged geography, these practices have nourished the preservation of many aspects of traditional culture.
The members of his Badakhshan Ensemble live in and around Khorog, the regional capital and the country’s largest city, where they earn their livelihood as professional musicians. Their repertory includes maddah, devotional songs that can embody the spiritual power known as baraka, laments with spare instrumental accompaniment called falak, and traditional popular songs, called khalqi.
For Badakhshanis, music and dance are intimately linked, and Soheba, an outstanding dancer as well as one of Badakhshan’s finest female vocalists, illustrates the rich symbolism of Pamiri dance.
World music band Baraka remixed traditional Pamir music recorded by folk band Samo and the result is Samo Remix. While Samo provided vocals and traditional acoustic instruments from the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan, Baraka added electronic keyboards, electric guitars, bass and additional percussion.
Although this a remix, it’s not an electronic dance music recreation. Instead, Baraka inject contemporary jazz and trip hop. The remix also includes three rappers on a handful of pieces. I usually find rapping extremely annoying in world music albums. Thankfully, the rapping by Mister Ruslan is essentially spoken word, which fits much better with the world jazz arrangements.
Baraka is based in the Baltic nation of Latvia. They are known for performing world music with a jazz edge, combining Central Asian music with jazz improvisation and electronics. The Samo Remix project came about when Baraka ensemble leader Dmitry Yevsikov traveled to Tajikistan in 2015. There, Samo played a home concert for him and Baraka was given a CD with Samo’s music and made a promise to respond to it. Samo Remix is the answer, a European tribute to the sounds of the Pamir.
“We decided to preserve the original vocal line in most compositions in its entirety,” explains Dmitry Yevsikov. “If possible, not to cut vocals into bits, so that even in the new arrangement those who speak the language could hear the Sufi message that comes through the ages.”
The Baraka musicians who created Samo Remix include Dmitry Yevsikov on mridangam, ghatam, darbuka, tabla, congas, bongos; Devika Yevsikova, his daughter, on vocals, Chapman stick, fretless bass, and bass guitar; Viktor Rytov and Artem Savry on Rhodes piano; Yegor Kovaykov on guitar and badakshani setor; Artur Kutepov on guitar; Denis Pashkevich on tenor saxophone; and Raivo Stasans on soprano saxophone.
Samo means “sky”. It’s a group of musicians from the Pamir, who started performing together in 2006. Their permanent headquarters is the Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments in the city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. There, instruments are on display, Samo’s rehearsals are held, and recordings are made. Samo perform in the museum regularly and at other venues. They toured in Germany in 2008 and the United States in 2009.
Samo perform the ancient music of the Pamir, based on the verse of the classical Persian poets: Rumi, Hafiz, Sherazi, and Khayyam. Their lyrics’ often focus on the spiritual path, described in metaphors and symbols. Their performances are mystic in nature and both musicians and the audience might slip into a trance-like state during the live shows. The Samo Group lineup includes Shavqmamad Pulodov on setar, rubab and vocals; Faizmamad Nazariev on rubab, tanbur and vocals; Shanbe Mamadgaminov on ghijjak, nay and vocals; Daler Pallaev on daf, tablak and vocals; and Qurbonhaseyn Alishaev on daf, tablak and vocals.
The rappers are Mister Ruslan, Imomdod Orifov, and Alijon Boynazarov
Samo Remix is a fascinating international collaboration featuring European musicians, a Tajik folk ensemble and rappers, released by a Russian record label.