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Music from Azerbaijan

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A relative newcomer to the world music market (due to decades under Soviet restrictions), Azerbaijani music holds a lot of parallels with its nearby style of Persian classical. Where Persian music has its maqams, Azerbaijani music has mughams. The names change, but the basics are the same. However, where Persian classical music continually attempts to evoke the qualities of the human voice, Azerbaijani music largely circumvents the problem and focuses on the voice itself, relying heavily on the ghazal format so popular throughout the region. In this album, a very nice overview of the forms, Gochaq Askerov sings his way through the main styles of Azerbaijani music. The album opens with a mugham in Segah with a couple of nice tasnifs (which include instrumental accompaniment) built into the opening and closing. Askerov then moves into the Shur mugham, warbling his way through an excellent old ghazal poem. A slow folk song gives him room to stretch out into a plaintive cry, and a more contemporary folk song brings the rest of the instrumental ensemble into play in a greater form. An additional touch of Silk Road exoticism comes with the Shushter mugham with a slinking tasnif, and a mugham that includes a more pronounced rhythm (Zarbi mugham) lets Askerov scream, coo, and yodel, all with extraordinary grace. The album closes on another Shushter piece, this time an instrumental that showcases the ensemble as a whole. Overall, an excellent entry point for the listener curious about Azerbaijani music, but also an excellent addition to the collections of those who already have a taste for the sound.

Music from Azerbaijan, Sari Gelin Ensemble
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