By Neil van der Linden
The first time I heard the subtle Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat was via a CD playing at Lorca, an artists’ café in Tehran. It was an album she recorded with the American blues singer Mighty Sam McClain, Deeper Tone of Longing. After many collaborations, this is Vahdat’s first true solo CD. She is backed up by Norwegian pianist and electronic keyboard player Tord Gustavsen, Shervin Mohajer on the kamancheh (spike fiddle) and the renowned Iranian percussionist Ali Rahimi. It is astonishing how three instrumentalists and a voice can conjure such a striking variety of atmospheres, oscillating between brooding suspense and rapturous ecstasy. The ease with which she bridges genres lifts the music to that rare category of fully convincing fusion: this album easily reaches the heights of Oriental fusion scaled by the likes of Dhafer Youssef.
The lyrics of the album are derived from poems by the Persian poet Hafez, Rumi and Omar Khayyam. While embracing modernity, Vahdat always relates back to Persian musical traditions. On pieces such as ‘Sleepless Eyes’ and ‘Kissing the Wine Jug’, the voice, the keyboards and the kamancheh powerfully merge in improvisations that are close to the classical Persian style. Mahsa Vahdat has masterfully proven how it’s possible for Persian music to continue evolving.