Saied Shanbehzadeh Pour-Afrigha
Buda Musique (www.budamusique.com)
Review by Michael Stone
Politics and music are rarely far apart, as perhaps nowhere more evident than in the music of exiles wherever they find themselves. At a forcible remove from its cultural foundations, dislocated artistry resides as close as memory and sentiment can bring tradition bearers to a time, place and way of life that, if now denied to the artist, can be only more unfamiliar to the audience. Yet all that changes when the artist, in the company of fellow exiles and rootless cosmopolitans, finding themselves in a strange land, commune in song.
Born to a Baluchi father and Afro-Iranian mother descended from Zanzibar exiles enslaved in the Persian Gulf region of southern Iran, Saied Shanbehzadeh himself left for France when his experimental fusions of African-Iranian possession ritual music and other regional folk forms found disfavor with the cultural police (he was convicted in absentia for blasphemy and faces lashing and imprisonment if he were to return). Shanbehzadeh sings, composes, arranges and plays the neyanban (a double-reed bagpipe made of goatskin) and saxophone.
Joining Shanbehzadeh on this Paris studio recording is Iranian Baluchi singer Rostam Mirlashari, a former political prisoner exiled in Sweden, where he studied Swedish and Baluchi folk traditions at the Royal University of Music. Accompanying are French jazz guitarist Manu Codija, Shanbehzadeh's conservatory trained son Naghib on percussion (zarb-timpo, dammam, kesser, darbuka), and several guests.
The results are evocative, far-reaching and elusive of place, a condition well familiar to a band of exiles brought together by political circumstance and the vagaries of fate. Drawing on songs and rhythms of maritime labor (“Kalfat”), family (the title track), love, theatre, dance, nature (“Malle Baloutchan”) and devotion, the music courses through the quotidian traditions of the Persian Gulf and the Baluchistan region of the Indian Ocean border between Iran and Pakistan. Yet the work simultaneously reflects the influences attendant to the artists' individual histories of displacement, jazz improvisation in particular (e.g., “Jazz Bandari”), as they have converged in the multicultural mélange that is Paris. - Michael Stone