The Sound of Peace (Ur Music)
Albuquerque is blessed to have two Middle Eastern virtuosi in permanent residence: Iraqi oudist Rahim AlHaj, who’s been here 18 years, and santourist Sourena Sefati, who arrived from his native Iran 4 years ago. The two perform and have recorded together in AlHaj’s trio, and Sefati has just released his first American recording, the dazzling The Sound of Peace,* on AlHaj’s Ur Music label. The grandfather of the cimbalom, the hammered dulcimer, and similar stringed instruments, the santour is an acoustic instrument with 72 metal strings stretched over a resonant trapezoidal wooden box. It is played with delicate felt-tipped mallets, called mezrabs in the Persian tradition. In the hands of a virtuoso such as Sefati, the instrument is capable of an astonishing and expressive range of timbres, and Sefati masterfully exploits the timbral possibilities to color the album’s eight original compositions. Each is driven by strong rhythmic currents and showcases Sefati’s remarkable technique. He delights in intricate, high-speed passages, producing waves of sound that seem all but impossible to create with only two small mallets. On the jubilant “Holy Peace,” he somehow manages to develop two independent, syncopated melodic lines simultaneously. “To My Beloved Motherland,” an affecting love song for a distant land and family, communicates the pangs of separation with highly technical playing and a sensitive selection of timbres. “The Sound of Samaa” suggests a ritual dance while the lively “Dance of the Meadow” offers an exuberant release. The stately “The River” gathers momentum as it tumbles toward the sea, and “Migration” somehow captures a sense of wonder as it moves through a variety of musical environments. The sheer virtuosity of Sefati’s playing may initially displace appreciation of his compositions, which deserve attention for their musical logic and flow. Sefati is joined on the album by Iranian percussionist Kourosh Danaei on tombak, udu, damman, and dayereh. The CD package is enhanced by Danaei’s calligraphy, which reproduces part of a work by the Persian poet Saadi.
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© 2018 Mel Minter
Sourena Sefati is an award winning Iranian composer and musician.