The Persian-fusion ensemble Navaz is celebrating their new CD ‘Onsu – The Other Side.’ Led by vocalist Neda Jalali and guitarist Eric Tompkins, Navaz has been making a name for itself with their highly original brand of Persian based world music. Familiar to the many Navaz fans is Neda’s hauntingly beautiful voice accompanied by the richly exotic sounding guitar of Eric Tompkins. However, with the new recording they have taken the sound in an exciting new direction.
An important addition to the band is setar and tar master Ali Razmi. With his dazzling improvisational skills and his vast knowledge of Persian melody and rhythms, Ali has made a vital contribution to the overall quality of the recording. His setar solos on Talab and Hameh Ja are nothing short of exhilarating. There are very few setar players who can match Ali’s creative energy and outstanding virtuosity.
Many of the songs on Onsu – The Other Side are intensely rhythmic. For example check out the appropriately named, and highly danceable, Wild Horses (Asb Haye Vahshi), which was inspired by a traditional Kurdish melody and rhythm. The song also includes the saxophone playing of Shawn Smith who adds a distinctively James Brown sounding groove to the piece.
The recording also has a strong blues influence. The Persian classic Baroon Barooneh has been rearranged to include a blues interlude in the middle with new lyrics – plus it features a dobro (played by Eric Tompkins) mixed in with Ali’s setar. The dobro is also featured on Raaz, which begins meditatively then transforms into a pulsating blues shuffle before ending with a softer, more luxurious feel.
Featured prominently on the CD is the poetry of Rumi. Talab, Janan and Begoo are all based on Rumi poems set to original melodies and arrangements. For non-Persian listeners the CD includes a booklet of translations of the lyrics to all the songs.
Included on the recording is a more traditional sounding instrumental track from the Navaz ‘Canada Live’ CBC recording. It features the superb santour playing of Nima Gahemi and the beautifully creative tonbak playing of Bardia Sadeghi in a piece titled Charmezrab e Nava.
With the release of Onsu – The Other Side it is evident that Navaz is charting an exciting new direction in Persian based world music. Their music is both meditative and rhythmically intense. Navaz will make you want to dance or take you on a journey to a faraway place.