The band borrows from an historic lineage of Middle Eastern poets setting verse to music, perhaps most famously known today through the work of the 13th century Persian poet Rumi … Niyaz, which means ‘yearning’ in Persian and Urdu, was formed in 2005 by Azam Ali, multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian and two-time Grammy nominated producer and electronic musician Carmen Rizzo.
Struggle as a metaphor is something every human can relate to. One of the most prolific and challenging forms of struggle in the world today is the plight of ethnic and religious minorities, which is the topic of Niyaz’s third album, ‘Sumud’ (pronounced soomood) out now on Six Degrees Records. Translating from Arabic as ‘steadfastness,’ lead singer Azam Ali chose this philosophical term as a symbolic reminder that, as she explains, ‘every human being should inherit the right to live with dignity and freedom upon the land on which they are born.’
Like all of the album’s ten tracks, ‘Mazaar’ features a punchy low end and a strong emphasis on percussion. Electronic elements abound on Sumud. At the beginning of the process of recording, a collective decision was made to give the kick drum more kick after the acoustic-minded ‘Nine Heavens‘. It also marks the first time that the band recorded the majority of the album together, starting in Montreal and putting the final touches on in Los Angeles.
The approach involves less multi-layering and more effects on his instruments, predominantly the Middle Eastern stringed instruments kamaan and robab. The effect is hypnotic, with melodic waves erupting between the precise stabs of Carmen Rizzo’s cutting-edge production aesthetic. ‘By recording in a less acoustic manner,’ Torkian says, ‘the instrumentation merges into the electronic music in a different way. With less multi-layering, there is more room to process and treat the acoustic sounds.”
In an age where conflict regions are tearing up areas of the Middle East, as well as completely fracturing the understanding of Arabic culture in America, Niyaz is presenting the most ground breaking marriage of ancient, ecstatic verse with 21st-century dancefloor kinetics.
4 out of 5
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