Words by Laudan Nooshin
A ‘pilgrimage to beauty’ by one of Iran’s most versatile female singers
Mahsa Vahdat is one of few female singers living in Iran to record regularly outside the country, largely through the support of the Norwegian label Kirkelig Kulturverksted, for whom she has recorded several albums, including collaborations with her sister Marjan and a range of Iranian, Scandinavian and North American musicians. This new album does exactly what it says on the tin, immersing the listener in almost an hour of Vahdat’s fluid and evocative voice. Perhaps the restrictions on solo female singing in Iran encouraged Vahdat to produce an entirely unaccompanied album, a first for Iranian music. Certainly, her voice is enhanced by the wonderful historic buildings in which the recordings were made, on what is billed as a ‘pilgrimage to beauty’ across Europe. Indeed, one of the most striking things about the album are these locations and the different personality that each acoustic brings to the music. The result is an intensely intimate album, as if Vahdat is singing to herself. The 21 short tracks are settings of medieval and contemporary mystical poetry, with music either by Vahdat or based on classical modes or folk melodies.
The pieces are all so beautiful it’s hard to choose a standout, although ‘Lullaby’, recorded in the Alhambra, would be the strongest contender. Like other albums produced by Erik Hillestad for Kirkelig Kulturverksted, this one has a beautiful cover and liner notes, including all the song lyrics in Persian and English.