Dawâr – The Universal Rhythm
rec. July 2014, Studio Vega, Carpentras, France
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC905273 [65:49]
This release is really interesting, but also rather baffling. It’s the first issue in a new HM Series called Latitudes: Classical Music of the World. It’s very much to HM’s credit that they’re exploring world music in this way, and it’s typical of their exploratory outlook on the world. However, very untypically for HM, the accompanying notes seem to obscure rather than clarify what is going on, and that’s a problem if you’re a newcomer like me.
Supportive as I am of the project, its descriptive prose is rather purple. Comparing the music-making to gathering pollen is one thing, but throwing in ideas of a “universal scansion” is quite another, and other comments, which seem to be directed at insiders to this world, smack of obscurantism, not least in the talk of the universal love that is diffused between the three men; give me a break. Elsewhere the notes claim that "The Chemiranis speak to everyone." Well, yes: they spoke to me, but I wasn't entirely sure what they were saying.
That’s not to demean the playing or the music itself, which is no doubt excellent, but it’s a serious black mark against this disc that it doesn’t seem to offer a way in to a world music novice like me. Nor does it help that the texts which are spoken over some of the tracks, presumably in Persian, are translated only into French. So all I can do is respond to this disc from a position of ignorance but, I hope, honest ignorance.
The Trio Chemirani, a father and two sons, are primarily percussionists who make their music on traditional Persian instruments, most notably the zarb and the daf. Consequently, the disc consists of a lot of drumming, but it isn’t dull: they speak instead of a “universal rhythmic language”, and I could sense that. In fact, it’s as though the different drums are speaking to one another, holding a conversation and responding in kind, and that’s something that’s reinforced by the recording, which captures the positions of the three instrumentalists very well. Dawâr, the opening track, has a rhythmic circularity that drew me in as a listener, and this continues through most of the disc. There is never a sense of drumming for its own sake, but instead the players develop a sense of language to each number. What is striking is the sheer variety of sound the draw from the instruments, be it a thwack on the barrel of the instrument or a gentle stroke instead of a curt beat. I liked Mochaéré, the fourth track very much, and the tuned elements of Sahar, track seven, reminded me a little of folk song. I reveal my ignorance, however, by saying that the pounding variety of Adjab, track 10, recalled Stomp, which takes me back to my central point that a novice like me gets precious little help. Throughout this disc, which I enjoyed listening to, I had a definite sense that something was going on, but I was not at all sure as to what.
To Bandégui [2:27]
Kam Kam [4:35]
Dar e Omid [7:18]
Yâdé Saman [2:31]
Haft Rang [6:35]
Reng e Kyân [2:08]
Reng e Elijah [5:09]
Raqsé Dastan part 1 [2:24]
Bâ namak part 2 [3:21]
Rodâdad Kodjâst part 3 [2:24]