Kayhan Kalhor, Aynur, Salman Gambarov, Cemîl Qoçgirî

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Kayhan Kalhor, Aynur, Salman Gambarov, Cemîl Qoçgirî
Latitudes/Harmonia Mundi
Review by Tyran Grillo

The ensemble documented here—consisting of kamancheh (Iranian spiked fiddle) master Kayhan Kalhor, Kurdish singer Aynur, Azerbaijani pianist Salman Gambarov, and tenbûr (fretted string instrument of Central Asian heritage) virtuoso Cemîl Qoçgirî, who hails from Germany but is of Kurdish descent—has its roots in 2012, when the musicians met and played at the Morgenland Festival in Osnabrück, Germany. A year later they recorded the present disc, reviving the magic that must surely have transpired during that fateful meeting. Together they create a land of their own into which all are welcome to press their feet. To that metaphorical end, the album's Kurdish title means “everybody needs everybody else, each of us is there for the other,” and this sentiment is felt in each of the program's five expansive territories.

Listen "Delalê" (excerpt)

At just shy of 16 minutes, “Delalê” (My Beauty) is the longest track, yet somehow seems the most fleeting. A slow and brooding beginning finds the piano floating in oceanic reverb (an aesthetic that permeates the album's post-production). On this canvas Kalhor's brushstrokes come across with mournful clarity. Qoçgirî introduces the motif around which the musicians improvise throughout, before Aynur sings of a love that can never be. Though one might see her voice as one instrument among others, she is more so the mighty trunk from which those branches sprout in need of sunlight. As Aynur and the group cohere in this way, they assemble a unique language of balance through which the album's remainder is compelled to speak.

Listen "Xidire min" (excerpt)

Gambarov's pianism likewise sets the tone for “Xidire min” (Oh My Khidir), a song which names one of 250 villagers sent from Dersim in Northern Kurdistan to fight in the Korean War in 1950 but who himself never returned, leaving behind a mother to lament for her dead son. The tensions of this reality show in many aspects of the performance—in Aynur's genuine empathy not least of all—but especially in the pauses taken between phrases, as if to breathe through the threat of tears. This is the beating heart of Hawniyaz, its shaded and fetal core. From there an unbroken chain pulls the listener into “Malan Barkir – Bêrîvanê” (Exile – Diary of a Chambermaid), which tells of two Kurdish lovers separated by a tragic massacre of 1938 in the same village of Dersim. Despite the circumstances that inspired it, its energies disclose an urgent hope, not least of all through Qoçgirî's anchorage.

Listen "Rewend" (excerpt)

Qoçgirî opens “Rewend” (Nomad) in equal measure, evoking the many traces (both external and internal) conveyed in this travel song's lyrics. The sense of flow in the arrangement, appropriate to the nomadic theme, whips the melodies into jazz-like peaks before leaving Aynur suspended. Suspended, too, is the protagonist of “Ehmedo – Ez Reben Im” (Ehmedo – I'm Desperate), a woman arranged to be married but who can only sing of the man she really loves, hoping he will take her away. Accompanied only by piano, Aynur floats like a cloud, even as she grazes a hand along the earth below.

Listen "Ehmedo – Ez Reben Im" (excerpt)

The spacious recording and crossover aesthetic will appeal to fans of artists such as Cymin Samawatie, Amina Aloui, and of course Kalhor himself. But beyond such comparisons, the music herein flourishes in and of its own power. A power born to give birth to others in kind. - Tyran Grillo

From a live performance at the Morgenland Festival Osnabrück, in 2012


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