Songs of Love and Devotion from India & Pakistan
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A nice collection of vocal pieces from London-born Razia Aziz, this album is heavy on ghazals, but also includes a few bits of Sufi kafi goodness. The album opens on a kafi that builds into a restrained frenzy, then moves into a wistful ghazal, a sadder ghazal, and a happier ghazal. A couple of classic ghazals get their reworking courtesy of Aziz's mentor, Ustad Fida Hussain Khan, and the album makes a quick move at an older, jumping Punjabi piece (usually heard in more of a bhangra setting). Another Sufi kafi, and the album ends on an ancient Sufi anthem, since appropriated for general use and enjoyment and given almost a dhrupad-inspired delivery by Aziz. The sound is very nice throughout — Aziz's vocal technique shows some influence from a European upbringing, with a tendency to explore the scales in an extended fashion and an avoidance of the nasal delivery often favored by female vocalists since the rise of Bollywood and bhangra. The arrangements are new works in general, with Fida Khan providing the reworks for classic poetry (and contributing a harmonium to boot). For a nice set of ghazals, given a modern format to the degree possible, this is a fine pickup for any fan of light subcontinental music.