5 Stars - Songlines Magazine
“Beautiful sounding record” Cerys Matthews - BBC RADIO 6
These tracks were recorded in Tajikistan around 2008 in the capital city Dushanbe, up in the Pamiri town of Khorog and in two nearby villages in the Ghunt valley. It’s just a tiny slice of the mountain music of Tajikistan, whose rich traditions have soaked up the traffic of the Silk Roads and beyond for thousands of years.
Back in 2004, musician Lu Edmonds (The Damned, Public Image Ltd, Mekons, Waterboys and Billy Bragg) travelled to Tajikistan as an interpreter for a biodiversity project funded by TCF (The Christensen Foundation). In his words “It was an experience that I liked enough to continue with a ‘capacity building’ project in post-Soviet musical ecosystems.”
What that meant in practice was smuggling in old Revox reel-to-reel tape machines and modern digital interfaces to digitise 2,000+ incredible hours of Soviet-era audio archives at the Rudaki Institute of Languages in Dushanbe. Also, a series of open-air acoustic gigs were held and a free hospital for sick instruments with London luthier Andrew Scrimshaw in the Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments, founded by master musician and Soviet film star Gurminj Zavkibekov, whose son Iqbol of the groups MIZROB and SHAMS is such a central musical figure in Dushanbe.
With the help of Taneli Bruun of Global Music Centre (Helsinki) a 16-track studio in the museum was built. Using a Mac G4 powerbook, decent mics and a 10-track Metric Halo multitrack interface they recorded up in the high Pamirs with singer, composer and musical visionary Samandar Pulodov, while scoping out his dream of a live music festival in the high Pamirs – now the wonderful annual ‘Roof of the World’ Festival, held in a new amphitheatre in Khorog donated by HH the Aga Khan.
The album kicks off with the supergroup MIZROB, whose explorations in local traditional and regional tunes frame the singing of multi-instrumentalist star Davlat Nasri. The winter of 2008 was so cold (-20℃), that the museum was packed with as many musicians as possible in order that 5 new songs could be recorded with SAMANDAR, along with his top percussionist pal Zarif Pulodov and his brother, Pulod at the controls.
Next up, the wonderful traditional group SAMO whose rubobs, ghijaks, dafs and tanburs drive us up the crazy switchbacks of the M41 Pamir highway into the home of musical luminary DAVLAT NAZAR in Khorog. Finally, a rough 4WD ride to the raw musical source in the villages: a traditional welcoming song by SULTON NAZAR and a stunning 16 minute acapella/drum Daf-Soz by SHANBE – all about life, the universe, everything.