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Songs in the Mist - Young Iranian Female Voices
Review by Tyran Grillo

Listen "Longing"

Songs in the Mist convenes eight Iranian vocalists and five instrumentalists for a multifaceted celebration of song. Above all, it's an opportunity to experience the powers of voices which, in their homeland, are forbidden to be heard solo. This makes the efforts of producers Erik Hillestad and Mahsa Vahdat even more significant for providing a stage on which these women might undo cultural shackles to let their individuality be known.

The name of Mahsa Vahdat will be familiar to anyone who has explored likeminded releases on the KKV label, by which she and other female singers (including her sister Marjan Vahdat) have garnered the attention they deserve and opened listeners to a wealth of creativity that might otherwise be drowned out by the noise of male privilege. And while Vahdat doesn't sing here, she contributes original melodies to “Longing” and “Song of Spring of Hope.” Both are sung by Sara Parvaresh, whose ability to convey longing and assurance, respectively, indicates the breadth of talent unraveling herein. The same holds true for Ooldouz Pouri, whose breath control reveals strengths of intimacy in the Azeri folksong, “Yaraliam,” even as she sheds tears of displaced love in “Heyf.”

Listen "Avaz e Afshari"

Underlying these melodies are the decorative accompaniments of kamancheh, qanun, and upright bass, among other instruments. The long-necked tar grounds “Masnavi Shoor” (sung by Maryam Lamei) and “Avaz e Esfahan” (sung by the mononymous Yasaman) with its tactile nature, while percussion and qanun spark the underlying urgencies of “Morgh e Sahar” (sung by Mahsa Azimi). Sometimes the singers accompany themselves, as does Nelia Safai, playing baghlama on “Nena” and “Shopeh.” Both are sung in the language of Iran's Mazandaran region, and performed with such patience that one cannot help but sense the fertility that enlivens every syllable.

Hence, the greatest value of Songs in the Mist, which by its variety of location and vocal delivery communicates an undeniable truth: that these women are more than what they express, but are also what they impress. Whether in Sahar Mansourzadeh's sharper delivery of 13th-century poetry (“Avaz e Afshari”) or in Parand's unaccompanied rendition of a 12th-century poem by Saadi (“Farewell”), the soul of each artist accounts for a unique intersection of personal and ancestral experience, all the while tanning the ear with vocal sunlight.

Listen "Bahar e Delneshin"

Yet nothing better describes this album's cumulative effect than the poetry of Bijan Taraghi, which in “Bahar e Delneshin” transcends barriers of seclusion with the following verses:

Come back and behold me, I am astonished
Break the silence of my solitude
See the burned longing on my face, like a tulip
O you, whose face is my mirror

For indeed, by the very act of listening we come to reflect the lives of these artists whose stories are just beginning to spread ink beyond the books into which they were once written by those who would not hear them. - Tyran Grillo

Further reading and listening:
Mahsa Vahdat
Marjan Vahdat
Lullabies from the Axis of Evil


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