Looking Good for 801

16 02 2008

The Passion of Rumi (Quarter Tone)

For being 801 years old, Rumi is holding up pretty well. The Persian poet became the highest-selling wordsmith in America during the 1990’s, thanks to Coleman Barks’ translation work, which scanned over a quarter-million copies. Musical breakthroughs via the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan pumped Pakistani qawwali into global ears, opening doors into America for numerous forms of Persian music. Shahram Nazeri needed no introduction—at least not in his native Iran. When the Rumi Ensemble, founded by Shahram’s son Hafez in 2000, played in Tehran, over 140,000 people attended. Thus, one would expect the music on this album to be of the highest magnitude. There should be little surprise that it is just that. Persian classical music is done more justice with colors than words, as it is something to be experienced—lived through—than it is to be discussed. This 52-minute recording is a sound collage that ebbs and flows with the melodies of the setar and kammancheh, to the rhythms produced by the daf and tombak. And, of course, Shahram’s voice, a silky, golden vestibule through which the poetry of Rumi is rediscovered and recreated. While Hafez does no singing on this recording, his interpretation on “Journey to Eternity”—playing the setar in accordance with the habits of a guitar—creates a majestic, emotive and triumphant instrumental piece reminiscent of the passionate strums of the flamenco player (whose style, indeed, was influenced by the Persian tradition). In fact, Shahram’s vocals are eerily familiar to the gut-wrenching screams of that Mediterranean craft, during moments of fury and flight on “Enchanted,” for one. Their passion continues an unbroken eight-century old thread, a victory social and musical all at once. DB




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