Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Persian Love Songs & Mystic Chants

Some years ago, this blogger recalls reading a front page article in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times reviewing a sold-out concert, possibly at the Forum in Inglewood, by Persian singer Shusha.  Among the recollections was the adulation showered upon the singer by the crowd, many of whom were undoubtedly emigres who fled the late 1970s takeover of Iran by Islamic fundamentalists and who were basking in a shared memory and enjoyment of part of the remarkable musical culture that has come from that country over the centuries.

This 1971 recording, issued in the U.S. by Lyrichord, featured Shusha's second album of Persian songs, although she had a long-standing background in France and England of performing material more tied to those places.  Born the same year as this blogger's father-in-law, 1935, in Tehran as Shamsi Assar, she was the daughter of a Shia grand ayatollah who was a philosophy professor at the University of Tehran.

At 17, Shusha, as she became known, was sent to Paris to study and her training as a singer was utilized when she began performing folk music, but also recorded an album of traditional Persian songs in 1957.  In 1961 she married an Englishman, Nicholas Guppy, and moved to London where she had her two sons, but continued to work with music, as well as acting and writing.  In fact, she became quite well known for a memoir of her childhood in Iran, which she wrote in the late 1980s.  This album was made with Tangent Records and featured Duncan Lamont on flute and Behboudi on zarb (a hand drum.)  Lamont has had a long, successful career in the British jazz scene, playing tenor sax and gaining recognition as a composer.

Her voice is gorgeous, rich and full, and she easily negotiates the difficult technical requirements of vocalizing in the Persian manner.  The accompaniment is very good, but this record is all Shusha and her entrancing singing through the sixteen brief tracks (the last is the longest at just under four minutes, but most are around two minutes.)

It is hard to pick out any particular tunes as highlights, because the entirety of this record is excellent and there are times when the focus on her voice is notable, while other songs are welcomed for the fine flute playing as well as the rhythmic accompaniment of the zarb.  At about 35 minutes, the recording moves quickly and is a stellar example of Persian folk music, representing different areas of Iran, as well as sublime vocalizing from the amazing Shusha,

No comments:

Post a Comment