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Niyaz - Topic

Niyaz Play

Niyaz is something of a miniature electro-worldbeat supergroup. Consisting of singer Azam Ali (of Vas), multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian (of Axiom of Choice), and producer/remix artist Carmen Rizzo, the trio has a sound that centers on Ali's ethereal vocals and incorporates musical elements from Iran, Pakistan, India, Western Europe, the U.S., Turkey, and many other regions. Three of the songs on the band's eponymous debut album are based on the writings of the acclaimed Sufi mystic poet Jalaluddin Rumi; another is a setting of an Urdu poem by Sauda. But these ancient traditions are given settings that could have been created at no time but the present -- while traditional instruments are used liberally throughout, everything is undergirded with up to the minute breakbeats, electric guitars, and synthesizers. The resulting sound isn't slick, but it's definitely complex and frequently highly danceable. Highlights include the bhangra-flavored "Allahi Allah" (on which Ali's singing is especially beautiful), the dark and funky "Golzar," and the slowly simmering "Dunya." One or two other tracks (notably a rather slight instrumental titled "Arezou") fail to match the intense beauty of this album's best moments, but then, this is the first release by Niyaz -- the trio's next one should be even better. ~ Rick Anderson, Rovi

Nine Heavens Play

On their second outing, Niyaz are even more specific about what they're doing in both acoustic and electronic music. Their sound draws on traditional Turkish music, as exemplified by "Beni Beni," and music inspired by Iranian folk songs. By using two discs, one consisting of acoustic and the other of electronic versions of the same material, they really illustrate their approach. But what's most interesting is how subtle their electronic process is. It's still powered by percussion, like the acoustic versions, and voice and instruments still take center stage, but the careful programming and mixing provide for a changed atmosphere. In many cases the electronic tracks are not any more contemporary than their acoustic counterparts, but just different, offering a new perspective on the sound. There's a lot of rootedness in the music, and they use drones effectively, as well as lots of percussion around the simple melodies, with the basic trio filled out by guest musicians who are used judiciously. Singer Azam Ali is stunning throughout, a gentle powerhouse who acts as the glue to hold it all together. In fact, this is more than just an interesting release; it's an important way forward for Middle Eastern music. ~ Chris Nickson, Rovi
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