Mamak Khadem - The Road

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Mamak Khadem
The Road
Innova (

Listen "Stardust" (full song)

Iranian singer Mamak Khadem joins forces with guitarists Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, bassist and keyboardist-producer Jamshied Sharifi, and percussionist Mino Cinelu, along with a 27-piece ensemble, for this collection of traditional melodies from Iran, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece. Much like Greek singer Savina Yannatou, Khadem has a way of making songs her own, passing each through her interpretive filter many times before committing it to CD, all while erasing as many borders as she defines.

The cumulative effect of her musicians is apparent in the opening, “A Thousand Strings,” which listeners may recognize as the Serbian traditional “Ajde Jano,” a staple of such groups as Kroke (the song begins their 2003 album East Meets East) and a jewel of Eastern European repertoire. In contrast to Kroke's uplifting reading, Khadem slows the tempo to match the poetry of Rumi, with which she has substituted the original lyrics. Couched in a tasteful spread of electronics and guitars, she navigates a more spacious arrangement, inflected with her uniquely Iranian ornaments. For these arrangements we can also thank Sharifi, who further provides consistent anchorage in his thick bass lines.

Listen "Navaii/The Pledge" (excerpt)

As a footnote to the above points of reference one might add Dead Can Dance, for a kindred majesty is evident in “Flaming Sun.” Whether or not due to its being a song of her homeland is hard to say, but Khadem sings it with even deeper commitment. Like a fruit in search of a branch from which to hang, her voice ripens in its yearning for origins. So too in “Navaii,” a Khadem original that demonstrates full range of motion and carries over into “Pledge,” one of two songs from Baluchistan, in which voice and nay exchange paths of flight over a percussive foundation. The lyrical call and response lend sanctity to their romance.


"Romance" (excerpt)

"High Sea" (excerpt)

"Do, Don't" (excerpt)

Equally atmospheric pursuits are to be found throughout The Road, including “Do, Don't” (Khadem's setting of text by Ali Akbar Sheyda), “High Sea” (another Iranian highlight, this one supported by kamancheh), and the Kurdish “Those Eyes,” the romping brass and snare synergy of which ends the album with a dance. But of particularly noteworthy power is “Stardust,” a showcase for Khadem at her chameleonic best. Emboldened by a strong narrative drive, this Andalusian melody is the album's zenith and revives the tired axiom of less is more, for despite being the sparsest arrangement of the set it breathes through immense lungs. - Tyran Grillo

All audio © Mamek Khadem, 2015
Used by permission.

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