by wjw on April 24, 2007

The other night Kathy and I drove to Socorro, the Athens of the Southwest, for a concert by Niyaz.

(Considering the music, Socorro became for one night more like the Khorasan of the Southwest.)

Niyaz is sort of a world music supergroup, assembled out of performers who have had successful careers on their own and with others.

Niyaz— known in other parts of the world as Nyyaz— features vocalist Azam Ali, born in Iran and raised in India, who has collaborated with folks like Mickey Hart, Omar Faruk Bekbilek, and Trey Gunn of King Crimson; fellow Iranian (and husband) Loga Ramin Torkian on saz and GuitarViol; and Italian-American Carmen Rizzo on synthesizers. For the tour, the band added Greek-American Dmitri Mahlis, who played oud though he’s better known as a bouzouki player, and Canadian tabla player Satnam Ramgotra.

Azam Ali walked on stage looking like a Goth icon— very tall, very pale, dressed in a long black lacy dress, heavy silver bracelets on her wrists, and with hair falling past her waist in tight perfect Pre-Raphaelite waves.

Vocals were in Farsi and Urdu, a combination of new material, Iranian folk songs, and spiritual songs in the Sufi tradition, most written by Mevlana (known over here as Rumi), the founder of the whirling dervishes. The instrumental playing was lovely. Though I’d heard them, I had never actually seen a GuitarViol in use before— it’s essentially a guitar played with a bow, like a cello, and with a cello-like sound.

The concert hall put out their dance floor, but the only people to dance were members of the local belly dance group, who were most expert— better than the dancer we saw in Turkey, anyway. Others were perhaps uncertain how to dance to the rhythms of southwest Asia, or intimidated by the experts.

Spirituality, I’ve always felt, is best tempered by rock and roll. Which is to say the music was a little droney for my taste, and I wish they’d rocked out more. But the sound was lovely, the arrangements expert, and the belly dancing fun to watch.

A video is available here, for anyone interested in the group.

halojones-fan April 27, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Part of spirituality involves passion. It’s tough to inspire passion with…contemplative music. You need to move.

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