Azam Ali: From Night to the Edge of Day
The ten tracks on Azam Ali‘s latest offering are called simply ‘lullabies’. Yes they soothe and comfort, but the adult listener will more fully appreciate fully the richness of ‘From Night to the Edge of Day’. Their precise Middle Eastern percussion and often hypnotic vocals and instruments (Faith) carry me on a journey to lands unvisited; sojourning with new friends living and thriving in mysterious and ancient worlds (Tenderness). Go down that narrow alley and you are in Mumbai, up that brick avenue and discover Cappadocia (Nami) or Tehran. These songs both mystify the mind (Neni Desem) and whisper peace to the troubled soul; saying, “hush, the day is almost done and peace is falling upon you like a covering of grace and serenity.” The sensations that wash over me are like those when I listen to Benedictine Chants and similar ethereal and heavenly voices. There is neither ethnic, linguistic, religious nor cultural barrier to the uplifting and inspiring qualities of this gorgeous gift of music from Azam Ali. Look for this release April 12, 2011.
Azam Ali – Noor (The Light in my Eyes)
Rich with strings, unexpected bursts of Middle Eastern percussion, and contributions from virtuosic players like Musa, Ali’s songs nestle dreamy layers of vocals in contemplative soundscapes that evoke both the softness and sadness of night. Yet this emotional and sonic world has a drive that goes beyond the pulsing drums of tracks like “Dandidi.” Ali has thoughtfully chosen lullabies from minority communities across the Middle East, such as Iraqi Kurds (“Lai Lai”) and the Azeris of Iran (“Shirin”), in a plea for peace and an end to conflict. “You go to the Middle East, and the West is blamed for everything. However, many of our problems stem from our own way of thinking, from cultural divisions, interethnic conflict,” Ali explains. “No matter what culture you are, we are all the same at the core. Lullabies communicate this. And that perspective alone can change a lot of things.”
“To do this project, I worked with Kurds, Azeris, a Palestinian Christian, Iranians from all over,” recounts Ali. “You could write a book about each one of them, about their difficulties in life and their diaspora. It was a profound experience for me as person.” Despite oppression, war, and exile, Ali heard “hope and the belief that good will always come out in the end” in the traditional songs and in the musical contributions of her friends.
Lullabies began coming to Ali out of the blue. Friends returning from Iran brought her a collection of traditional lyrics, including texts in Farsi dialects that became tracks like “Mehman (The Guest).” Other friends from across the Middle East sang her classic favorites (the Turkish favorite “Dandini”) and obscure gems (the rarely heard traditional Turkish song, “Neni Desem”). Her close friend, Palestinian oud player Naser Musa, spontaneously wrote a stirring lullaby for Ali’s son, after speaking with Ali about her project (“Faith”).