By Neil Van Der Linden
Trained to recite the Qur’an as he was being brought up, Alireza Ghorbani developed his vocal abilities at a young age, going on to master the numerous scales of Middle Eastern music. For a few years now he has been releasing some of the most innovative recordings of Persian music, while always fully respecting the authentic traditions. Until now he has interpreted the lyrics of classical poets such as Khayyam and Rumi, but for this album Ghorbani and his musical collaborator Saman Samini, who plays the kamancheh (spiked fiddle), have added some poetry from the 20th and 21st centuries. Ghorbani’s singing has a wide range of notes and moods – whether whispering a subdued, mystical sotto voce or bursting out into an exalted improvisation in tahrir, the rapturous ‘yodeling’ of classical Persian singing. Ghorbani always exhibits a full control of technique even when seemingly letting himself go.
Sometimes, the African rhythms and timbres trickle through that have pervaded Iran for centuries via its south coast, through the slave trade and other connections. ‘Afarinesh’ seems to go through all the varieties in tone colours and range of emotions that Ghorbani and ensemble could possibly be capable of. The last piece of the album, ‘Afshari’, ends in an ecstatic frenzy of Afro-Gulf percussion. It’s unlikely that any listener will have ever heard this style exploited so explicitly on an Iranian classical music album.