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Written in fRoots issue 367/368, Jan/Feb 2014


Own label No number (2013)

The rather basic packaging doesn’t prepare one for the very appealing musical variety and supportive production within this, one of the few CDs that come for review from Tajikistan.
     Samo (‘sky’) is a quintet of traditional musicians and singers from a village in the Pamir mountains, founded in 2006 at the tiny Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. Lu Edmonds, of PiL, Mustaphas, Triaboliques, Blokes and much more, has been very involved in the Tusovki Project to develop the Gurminj Museum as a venue and centre for musicians, and Googling brings up a picture of Samo recording there for some Finns including musicians Olli Varis and Janne Lappalainen
     This is no starkly-recorded ethnographic project; it’s a band, making innovative arrangements of Pamiri and other Tajik material, including falak (funeral songs), darguilik (laments), lalaik (lullabies), using traditional acoustic instruments: the bowed and plucked strings of rubab, ghijak and setar and airy interjections of nay, propelled by the patter, boom and shuffle of daf and tablak hand-drums. The singing, solo and ensemble, is strong with the authority of those who’ve sung and played together in the traditional musical environment of their village for their whole lives. The arrangements and production show their awareness of how to fit that into the wider world.
     They remind me, in approach and strangely also in sound, particularly the singing, of a band from the other side of the world, Talago Buni from Sumatra, and like them they’ve already had the perspective a few years ago of playing in Europe at Rudolstadt festival. This CD suggests that, like Talago Buni, they’re ready to re-enter the world scene and make an impact on it.


© 2013 Andrew Cronshaw

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