Ghazal is a kind of fusion super-group of what we in America egocentrically call “World Music.” Kayhan Kalhor is an Iranian master of Persian folk music on the kamencheh, a violin-esque instrument; Shujaat Hussain Kahn is a lifelong master of the sitar and the Indian raga; throw in Swapan Chaudhuri on tabla. Together the three musicians improvise four long musical pieces in an attempt to create a fusion of their diverse styles. The shortest piece is just over ten minutes, the longest just seconds shy of twenty. Much is made of the fact that these musicians only met for forty minutes prior to going into the studio and improvising these pieces. This album is really wonderful. Each track has the same pattern: a quiet, but slowly building first half; the tabla enter at the half-point and kicks the intensity up a bit; the piece builds to an explosive climax. Each piece then is a kind of dramatic story with an arc that becomes, as the old folk songs always are, predictable without being tiresome. I found this music to be really transporting and hypnotic; it has a repetitive structure that just kind of pulled me in and captivated me. The quiet moments are often really beautiful; when the pieces get into the intense sections, you’ll wonder how it is that such a loud and overwhelming noise is being manufactured by just three musicians. This album was reportedly a big influence on Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project and I can see why; you listen to this hour or so of music and you really want to hear more. One of the four tracks is, in my opinion, quite a bit lesser than the other three, but it isn’t terrible or anything, just not up to the brilliance of the other three tracks. All things considered, this is a really good album, even if you’re not a fan of “World Music.” This one might just change your mind. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – Iranian & Indian music styles collide in this brilliant album of improvised fusion; hypnotic & transporting, this music is beautiful and exhilarating. 3 ½ stars.