”From the Middle East” will be a series of articles addressing the music produced by artists from Egypt, To Iran, from Turkey to Yemen. As i am an European, my taste in music is shaped by western standards, this is the case with most westerners i think, so i suggest keeping an open mind to all that is ”different”. We will not judge things as good or bad here, we must consider music as a universal language.
The year was 1970, nine years before the Iranian Revolution. The country enjoyed then a time of cultural openness from music to fashion. Azam Ali was born in Tehran, but her childhood will be shaped more by India then her own culture, having left with her family for Panchgani at the age of four. For eleven years she will study here with the accent being on arts and spirituality.
The American dream, the beginning of a new life in a country that's the spearhead of humanity motivated her and her mother to move in 1985. Here she will study with master Manoocher Sadeghi a series of instruments, especially the santour. This did not satisfy her searches so she decided to concentrate more on her vocal qualities.
She sings in Vas, a duet with percussionist Greg Ellis and with Carmen Rizzo and Ramin Torkian in the project Niyaz which in Persian and Urdu means yearning. She also released two solo albums, Portals of Grace (2002) and Elysium of the Brave (2006).
Portals of Grace is a complicated album, in the sense of beautiful, not hard to grasp. It combines Sephardic and Arabic music with medieval songs more from the region of France. It's the kind of album you would most likely want to listen in a warm summer night while daydreaming. The songs pave the road for a spiritual journey.
Elysium of the Brave on the other hand is in a different ballpark, at least when it comes to the overall sound. Traditional and Arabic elements which abound here just as much as in the first album are offered to the listener with a more modern approach through the use of electronic music.