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Aliakbar Moradi and Pejman Hadadi
Kereshmeh Records(

Aliakbar Moradi and Parvin Namazi
QuarterTone Productions (

Kurdistan is a cultural and ethnic zone of identity with transnational boundaries encompassing Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and small parts of Armenia. Officially stateless for centuries, the Kurds nevertheless number an estimated 25 to 30 million and ranks as the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East. They suffer persecution and discrimination to varying degrees in their respective "countries" and their musical traditions have likewise been subject to differing levels of restrictions. For example, Kurdish music was banned until recent years in Turkey, and prominent Kurdish musicians like Sivan Perwer had to live in exile and issue releases abroad. The horrific attacks on Iraqi Kurds by Saddam Hussein has been well publicized in the Western media. By comparison, treatment of the Kurds by the Iranian government has been generally less brutal, perhaps moderated by the closer ties between the Kurdish and Persian languages and cultures.

"Reiah Kay Kani"
from Kurdaneh
In these two CDs, Aliakbar Moradi, a Kurdish master of the tanbur, teams up with Pejman Hadadi, an Iranian percussionist living in the U.S., and Parvin Namazi, an Iranian singer who became interested in Kurdish music. Whisper is a follow-up to Moradi and Hadadi's 1999 album, Fire of Passion. Here Moradi's instrumental chops shine throughout with unrelenting intensity. The tanbur is a long-necked lute made of mulberry wood with three metal strings running over fourteen gut frets, with the top string serving as a sympathetic string. Despite its limited dynamic and pitch range, Moradi manages to coax an amazing variety of tonal textures from his tanbur using a combination of picking and strumming (or "shorr," meaning the pouring of water) techniques, which imitate scenes from nature in such cuts as "Partridge's Gait" and "Butterfly's Ascent." Hadadi's accompaniment merges seamlessly with Moradi's playing through all the meter and tempo changes and matches Moradi's axe speed with rapid-fire fill-ins of his own. Although divided into fourteen cuts, this album of 48-minute duration should be enjoyed as one continuous piece.

Kurdaneh is the more accessible of the two albums. Essentially a fusion of Kurdish melodies and lyrics with a particular mode of Persian urban traditional music, each song has a distinct feel. The backing ensemble produces a richer sonic texture with a wind instrument (ney), Moradi branching out on setar, bass tar, and dohol, plus tombak and daf players providing the rhythmic underpinning. The breathy, wispy ney is an effective foil for Namazi's full-throated alto, especially over the rolling caravan beat of the opening song "Komel Kah." Just sit back, relax, and let her voice carry you to the land of the Kurds. - John Cho

Audio: "Reiah Kay Kani" from Kurdaneh
(c)2000 QuaterTone Productions, used by permission

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