June 20, 2014

Niyaz, brilliantly and deliberately building bridges through time, space, and cultures

    Friday, June 20, 2014   No comments


(Music and band performance review)


 Members of the band Niyaz are similar to the music they produce: stunningly eclectic. They represent different ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds. Their music resurrects ancient arts and give life to words spoken in different tongues.
Their songs seamlessly transition from Persian, to Urdu, to Kurdish, to Turkish, to Arabic. Azam Ali’s voice and Tanya Evanson’s dancing allow one to experience music in multitudes of ways. One could actually see the music, feel it, and hear it. The mix make Niyaz’s music complex but supremely soothing, transformative, sensual, and uniquely uplifting. Niyaz blends Sufi mysticism, poetry, and Middle Eastern folk songs with masterful acoustic and modern electronic sounds, incorporating Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Indian influences.
As a group of diverse backgrounds, members of Niyaz share an unmistakable commitment to social justice issues, co-existence, and human dignity. That commitment is reflected in their selection of poems, art work, and words in general. For instance, one of their successful albums is the collection called Sumud – an Arabic word meaning steadfastness or steadfast perseverance. The word was selected to honor the Palestinians perseverance in the wake of the Gaza War. Azam Ali reflection on this choice:

Every human being should inherit the right to live with dignity and freedom upon the land on which they are born. We have now traveled across the world, and those experiences have affected the journey that we are on and the direction we’ve taken on this album. We’ve performed in the Kurdish parts of Turkey during times of major conflicts, as well as other parts of the Middle East. Obviously that has affected this project. We wanted to focus on the ethnic and religious minority groups in these regions, because they have really struggled to maintain their identity. It started from us wanting to tell our story, and it has evolved into this humanitarian social message, embracing regions around Iran.

Whether they are singing in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Kurdish, or Turkish, the Sufi touch is ever present. The Islamic mystic touch is further highlighted by Tanya Evanson’s magical dancing. These songs art part of a performance that took place at the University of Iowa. The band featured:

Azam Ali (voice, frame drums, dulcimer)
Ramin Loga Torkian (multi-oud, kamaan)
Didem Basar (kanun)
Gabriel Ethier (keyboards, programming)
Kattam Laraki-Côté (percussion, voice)
Tanya Evanson (dancer)

Watch/Listen/Share: Program PlayList

Ed Isr

About Ed Isr

Islamic Societies Review Editors

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