Wordsby Neil van der Linden
The Rumi Ensemble was founded by Javid Afsari Rad, member of the renowned percussion ensemble Zarbang. It consists of Zarbang members and other Iranian musicians, a Norwegian string quintet and vocalist Salar Aghili, complemented by some of the best young Iranian singers of the moment. The album’s compositions are dedicated to the poetry of Jalaleddin Rumi, the 13th century Sufi who is venerated in Iran (and denigrated by some hard-line clergy).
As composer and arranger of the pieces, Rad exploits all vocal and instrumental skills present. He follows classical Persian musical schemes, with metre-less introductions and instrumental and vocal improvisations, but adds Western harmonies, partly abandoning Oriental scales in some ensemble sections. The results at times become somewhat bland, which isn’t exactly unprecedented in East-meets-West fusion music. However, the solo and duo improvisations and the long ensemble piece ‘Jané Ashegh’ demonstrate how the various styles can intermingle if there is room for each to manifest themselves separately. In the concluding tracks, the singer and solo instruments once more transcend the sum of the composing parts, playing with cavalcading melodic phrases and intertwining rhythms – the kind of rhythm patterns Zarbang are known for – over-haunting ostinato themes produced by alternating rhythm sections. Here, as if elated by the spirit of Rumi’s poetry, the performers reach a state of full mastery over text and musical material.
Track to try: Deldare Man