Punch, dimension, texture

Listening to Perez is a bit like hearing one of the great jazz scat singers; singers who eschew using comprehensible lyrics and instead improvise sounds to accompany the band. While, however, she is obviously singing lyrics, in songs like "Helelyos" she adds various inarticulate exclamations as punctuation to the music during the course of the tune. Not only do they sound great, they also give the music extra punch and dimension.

Of course alongside those elements we would normally associate with music from Europe and North America, there are the musical contributions from Iran. Sometimes there are subtle reminders in a song that this isn't your typical funk/jazz recording. Hammered dulcimer is not an instrument you expect to hear being played in this genre. Yet there it is popping up to lend the music a different texture. While it may not sound like a big difference, hearing its distinctive sound in this context changes the music significantly and adds to the uniqueness of the band's sound.

"Miravi", the fourth song on the disc, is probably the track that is most obvious in its Iranian origins. The flow of the music, the dulcimer taking the lead and the piece's ornate simplicity create a feel that is worlds apart from what we've heard up until now. While each track on the album is very different, this one stands out for its simple beauty. What's especially impressive about this is there aren't many bands that can both tear through music and play something like this tune with equal proficiency.

In a statement about the album Perez calls what her band does "the chance to present positive aspects of Iranian culture to the West". While a band can't do much to influence government policy, they can do a lot to educate people. While the American government might be making attempts to vilify the Iran as a country, Mitra Sumara are doing their best to enlighten people about their country's unique music heritage.

"Tahdig" by Mitra Sumara is a wonderful collection of music which will delight listeners of all backgrounds and interests. All of which makes it the perfect vehicle for helping to build bridges between two countries and cultures that have been alienated for such a long time.

Richard Marcus

© Qantara.de 2018

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