Having long performed in the shadow of her sister Mahsa, Tehran-born singer Marjan Vahdat at last brings her first solo project to light. Whether handling the words of Rumi, 19th-century poet Tahereh Ghorattolein, or those from her own pen, Marjan's mostly original melodic settings make every lilt an experience unto itself. As noted in the album's press release, Marjan is forbidden to perform in the presence of men in her native Iran, but now her birds flock freely, no longer confined to their cages. Marjan thus proves herself a key proponent of Persian song, and on Blue Fields makes her most indelible mark yet. Funded under the auspices of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (it was, in fact, Scandinavian interest that allowed this recording to be made) and recorded at a chapel in Sweden, it joins a globally minded community that welcomes her, and the fortunate listener, with open arms.
Some vocal excursions allow for casual sightseeing without much attention paid to lyrical way stations along the way. Such is not the case here. Each song begs close attention to appreciate the subtler nuances thereof. The music and singing alone are surely enough to move, but for the full experience you'll want to listen with booklet in hand. The blend of Norwegian and Persian elements in “Rooted in You,” for instance, establishes a representative mood that goes beyond the need for translation. Its emotional charge is as unmitigated as the voice guiding it. But then, listen to what Marjan is singing. “I desire the pure sky of you,” she croons, exuding passion as the musicians unfold their desires in kind. Gjermund Silset (who also arranges) on bass, Shervin Mohajer at the kamancheh, Pasha Hanjani on ney, and percussionist Kenneth Ekornes all practice what Marjan preaches, embodying elements with as little separation as possible.
"Rooted in You"
The album's title comes from the lyric, “Bring your black and white sheep and let them sleep in the blue fields of my home.” The words are from “Shevano” (Shepherd), one grain in a sprinkling of Kurdish songs, this of northeastern Iran, throughout the program. “Song of Spring” is another. In it the kamancheh works its magic, as also in “Blue Longing.” Here Marjan carries longings as far as they will go, traversing plains and paths to a whisper of accompaniment. The instruments proceed in likeminded fashion, providing ample landscape for Marjan's travels. In this respect, the kamancheh, ney, and bass form a pliant triangle, teasing out sensuousness from even the darkest shadows. Two poems by Iranian painter Mohammad Ebrahim Jafari yield even more beguiling themes. Between the solemn “Beholding the Twilight,” a song of two pigeons regarding the sky in conversation, and the hallucinogenic “A Dream,” there is enough expressivity for another album yet.
Yet, it is in the marriage of Marjan's own words and music that we may bask fully in the light of her artistic sun. “Tazarv” (Pheasant) is one such admixture, less a blending of East and West than of Self and Other. Here Marjan references “The Madman and Layla,” an old love story about a man who goes insane when he cannot be with his true love. “I am the Pheasant of the branches of the cypress of your soul,” it begins, an image evoked by the occasional wing-beat of ney and kamancheh before the two unite in a fan of sonic plumage. All of this reveals Marjan Vahdat as a singer who not only dreams of flight, but who also achieves it. - Tyran Grillo
Marjan Vahdat's song "Rooted in You" is included in the 4 CD box set, 40 Years' Credibility, a history of Kirkelig Kulturverksted, a record label and cultural organization in Norway that is now celebrating it's 40th anniversary. This set is our July "Music of the Month" offering to help support RootsWorld. Find out more
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