We Are Three

Real World

In 1999, Joi released One and One is One through Real World Records and AstralWerks. It was one of those releases that has forever changed the way I listen to music. Farook Shamsher and his brother Haroon were amazing, and I couldn’t believe that everywhere I went, I wasn’t hearing people listening to it. Then, not too long after I fell in love with the music of Joi, Haroon Shamsher passed away. I’d only just begun to love Joi, yet I was filled with an intense level of grief.

Now, two years later, We Are Three not only surpasses One and One is One, but it reaffirms that Joi is more than a flash in the pan. It almost sickens me that I don’t see an Astralwerks logo on the release, but Real World Records is the correct label for Joi. Beyond the rhythms and electronics, Joi is world music. It is music to cross cultures. The album opens with “Journey” building from just a simple ethnic rhythm to full blown travel. For those of you familiar with “The Sheltering Sky,” “Journey” is the soundtrack to Port’s travels. Farook explains it in the liner notes as being a recreation of Haroon’s journey when visiting Bangledesh shortly before his death. “Prem” kicks in right as “Journey” ends, and brings with it a sense of arrival. Interestingly enough, the vocals are not from a “professional” vocalist, but rather were recorded by Haroon on his journey. It is the voice of a 14-year-old girl that brings forth such emotion. How can a 14-year-old learn this level of emotion when singing? The world is filled with vocalists who make their living invoking emotion is all of us, yet most of them, will never come close to the power of this young girl.

On my first trip through the album I didn’t think anything else would touch “Prem”‘s emotional level, but the surprises never stopped coming. “Deep Asian Vibes” slides in like a snake charmer’s song, but it’s your soul that is being charmed. We are then washed into “Triatma,” with its beautiful instrumentation and sensual flutes. Beyond a tribute to his brother, Farook seems to have built in a message to everyone trying to label Joi as part of the “Asian underground.” In the first few moments of “Tacadin,” we hear the truth: “This is not the sound of the Asian underground. This is music.” Yes! Thank you Farook. I know your brother is smiling upon you and filling you with the passion and devotion to continue. Joi is not the “leader” of some sub-genre; Joi is world music. It crosses cultures, oceans, religions, and speaks to the core of your spirituality. Peace and prosperity to you always, Farook. I’ll be listening.

Real World Records,

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