The Kamkars
Kani Sepi
Kereshmeh Records (

For many, Kurdistan represents a relatively unfamiliar part of the Middle East. Yet as one cynic recently quipped, "God invented war to teach us geography." Since the time of the first World War, in conflicts with Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, the Kurds have been subject to ongoing geopolitical outcomes. As the descendents of migrants from India and Persia, modern Kurds retain influences of those ancient connections in culture, folklore and music. Kurdish musical modes (maqams) derive from the improvisational tradition of Persia. Additionally, a distinct melodic form of Kurdish music (gourani) relates to poetry associated with spiritual practice (originally Zoroastrian, now Islamic). The songs on Kani Sepi draw from the gourani style which use traditional maqams.

"Kani Sepi"
Active as performers since 1967, the Tehran-based Kamkars (one sister and seven brothers) evidence the vitality and resilience of music in Iran and of ethnic groups such as the Kurds. I wish I were fluent in the language, but it isn't necessary with this album. Bijan Kamkar's vocals transcend the language barrier and, in place among the santour, setar, oud, miolin, kamancheh, and percussion instruments, create a powerful mood. Sometimes, though, it's the simplicity of orchestrated handclaps or the glissade of violins and santur (box zither) that makes this album work.

Each song offers a distinct flavor, from the title cut "Kani Sepi" (The Glistening Spring) to "Spring Blossom," "Set Me Free," and "Red Rose," through "Had a Heart," "Don't Cry," "Madly in Love" and "Come to Me." All are a cut above the normal world music cross-over lists and merit a good listen. Limited translations and notes do not prevent this from being a good listen. -Richard Dorsett

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Audio file and graphic © 1999 Kereshmeh Records. Used by permission.

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