Words by Laudin Nooshin
Second album from bafflingly under-the-radar Iranian singer
I first came across Mamak Khadem when I reviewed her solo album Jostojoo in 2008. A couple of years later, I heard her perform live at the ICA in London – still her only UK concert to date – and was bowled over, left wondering why she wasn’t better known or promoted in the world music scene.
Khadem is an artist who deserves to be heard more, both for her amazing voice and her musical bridge-building. In her latest album, she throws her net even wider than usual, weaving together sounds from across the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia and involving a large number of musicians from those regions. Her version of the Serbian song ‘Ajde Jano’ – which may be familiar to readers from the album East Meets West by the Kroke Ensemble & Nigel Kennedy – is particularly strong, here titled ‘A Thousand Strings’. One minor quibble is the lack of information on songs and lyrics and the slightly irritating, and seemingly random, English titles given to most of the tracks. Surely listeners would want to know that track four is from the northern Iranian province of Gilan or that track five is a Kurdish tune? It’s a shame, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the first-rate music.