Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In Praise Of

Now, this corner has been accused of being a bit negative these days, but really, with the Apocalypse upon us (I predict bombs falling on Iran in late September or early October), it's hard to find many things to be hugely happy with.

However, this weekend, while fat and happy from Mexican food and on the way to a party, we stopped by Virgin Records and there was this awesome music playing. A middle-eastern group called Niyaz. Very interesting melodies, amazing rhythms, cool vocals - a great listen. I'm particularly fond of the track Dilruba, which is intensely rhythmic and dynamic. You can find them on iTunes, and I suggest downloading that one track - it's with the $0.99.

From the web site:

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 blendings 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.

I've been playing it in my car - a convertible - and certainly getting some very interesting looks as the drums and bass thump out across Santa Monica Boulevard.

Update: I was also quite struck by how interesting it is to listen to music in a language that you don't understand at all. Most music I listen to - modern or classical - will be sung in English or Spanish (modern) and French or German or Latin (classical). My French, German, and English are all pretty good, and listening to Spanish or Latin, you get a lot of cognates from French, so there is still meaning. But listening to music sung in Farsi or Urdu is something completely different. I was quite struck by how rhythmic the language is, and how they use the rhythm of the language to compliment the music.

But then, maybe that's also the case in other music, it's just that when you know the meaning, the mind focuses on the meaning and not the sound, if that makes any sense. Maybe not. I was listening recently to Tchaikovsky's Vespers Service (also beautiful and a good purchase - infinitely more accessible than Rachmaninov's similar service), sung all in Russian, and it lacks the same sense of rhythm. But that could be a function of the liturgical nature of the music.

Basically I'm saying that I've realized it's very cool to listen to singing you don't understand, because it allows you to focus exclusively on the music and completely ignore the words.

1 comment:

decoin said...

Bombs falling on Iran by September? No. Iran can't complete its nuclear weapons program by September. That will take until 2008. Then Iran will launch its nuclear barrage on Israel and then many, many nuclear bombs will fall on Irag. So you still have 2 years to go to the virgin for tunes. Not as bad as you thought.