Moon Rise Over the Silk Road
On their third album, Ghazal explores the shared classical music traditions of India and Persia (now Iran), while also charting a brilliant improvisational territory all their own. The group is composed of Kayhan Kalhor on the kamancheh, an ancient bowed instrument of Iran that is the ancestor of most bowed instruments throughout Asia and Europe (and sounds a lot like a violin, only pitched lower), and Shujaat Husain Khan on sitar and vocals. Other guest musicians play tabla and percussion on various tracks.
All the performances on this album are outstanding. In the hands of Kalhor and Khan, the kamancheh and sitar express an incredible range of emotions, from jubilance to lament and everything in between. Sometimes one player takes center stage, while the other harmonizes; sometimes the musicians trade lines in call and response fashion; and sometimes everyone plays at once in a glorious free for all. Two of the tracks run for more than twenty minutes each, while the third clocks in at “only” eight minutes, so the pieces have plenty of time to unfold at their own pace. “Fire in the Heart” is my favorite, with its plaintive kamancheh and meditative sitar expressing a lover’s longing for his absent love. Her image follows him everywhere, her scent, the sound of her voice as she speaks his name, the taste of her lips and the salty sweat of her body… Then the tabla joins in, urging the other instruments to twine around each other fast and furious as the absent one returns, whirling faster and faster in the arms of her lover till they collapse together on the pillows, exhausted but happy.
Shanachie Records, 13 Laight St., New York, NY 10013; http://www.shanachie.com