Songlines review

This is music from a sadly neglected part of the world. Hopefully this great double CD will bring attention to the very special music of Balochistan and put its people more firmly on the map. The 10-15 million Balochis live at the meeting point of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan; what they consider to be Balochistan is split by the three countries, with close to ten million of them living in Pakistan.

Abdulrahman Surizehi was born in Iran but since 1987 he has been resident in Norway. Here he’s assembled a fine band of Balochi musicians that really show the music off. Surizehi plays the benju, a keyed dulcimer that is virtually unknown anywhere else, and is taken to great heights by Balochi musicians. He’s the acknowledged master and you can hear the exceptional delicacy and virtuosity of his playing on “Bya Bya”. Other instruments include the tamburag lute and the sorud, an extraordinary fiddle carved to look rather like a skull, used mainly in trance music.

The first disc feature love songs sung and accompanied on benju by Surizehi. The intricacy of the accompaniment and the web of sound the instrument creates is gorgeous. On “ Koshta Mana”, the sorud takes over the melody. But it is on the second disc of trance music that Surizehi bows out (apart from on the final track) and the sorud, played by Abdullah Baloch, comes to the force. Here there isn’t the delicacy and the elegance of the benju love song, but play it loud and its intensity is captivating. The sorud has a scratchy, nasal tone and Baloch throws squeaks and exaggerated effects into his playing. The rhythm is insistent with an unchanging chord strummed repetitively on the tamburag. The best recording I’ve heard of this sort of music is on Shanachie’s amazing album “The Mystic Fiddle of the Proto-Gypsies”, but as a rounded introduction to the beauty and wildness of Balochi music, this album is something special.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Written by Simon Broughton/Songlines

Songlines is the magazine that looks at the world through its music. Covering music from traditional and popular to contemporary and fusion, Songlines features artists from all around the globe. Edited by Simon Broughton, co-editor of The Rough Guide to World Music, Songlines is packed full of the latest CD reviews, artist interviews, guides to particular world music traditions, travel adventures, beginner's and city guides, frontline reports and concert listings.