If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you’ll know we love our Middle Eastern and North African music. Well, we’ve just discovered a website called Mideast Tunes, which says it is the ultimate platform for discovery of underground musicians in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly those working for social change. They say this:
“Our mission is to bridge barriers of faith and geography to unite people committed to fostering constructive discourse in the region through music. The core of the project manifested from our desire to promote bands and musicians that would otherwise never be given a second glance in the international scene. We feel that is because most people would never think to look to regions like the Middle East and North Africa for highly thought provoking music. The need to change that is our driving force.
We believe music can change the world and that the musicians of the Middle East and North Africa will lead the way.
Founded in 2010 in Bahrain, the site has expanded to serve as a primary resource for discovering up and coming Middle Eastern talents.”
There’s an app. There’s a blog. There’s a lot of amazing music.
- Check it out HERE.
The Canadian/Persian band Niyaz have been around since 2004 and have five previous releases before this new album, The Fourth Light. One of the most welcome aspects of the post-music-industry economy is that incredibly talented artists such as Niyaz have the possibility of releasing fan-funded albums without the interference of record labels.
In this case, a modest donation gets you a digital download of the album and there are various options beyond that which can include a CD, a signed CD, a t shirt, a handwritten lyric sheet. A 20 minute Skype call with Azam Ali and Loga Ramin Torkian, a private music lesson with Loga Ramin Torkian, a limited edition lithograph of the cover art…and more! What a creative way to raise funds for a project!
Niyaz has until recently comprised of DJ, programmer/producer and remixer Carmen Rizzo, vocalist and hammered dulcimer player Azam Ali, formerly of the group Vas, and Ali‘s husband, Loga Ramin Torkian, of the Iranian crossover group Axiom Of Choice. Carmen Rizzo left the band amicably in 2013.
- If you were to pass before me, my tears would turn to rain
If I were to gaze into the light in your eyes, I would enter a drunken state
If I were to touch even the tip of your hair, my heart would be enraptured
If you were to remain in my presence, I would be consumed with the
sweetness of love
Niyaz are superb musicians but manage to not disappear up their own arses as too many virtuosic bands do. Their instrumental, vocal and production skills are second to none; this music is not self-indulgent, it is flawless but very accessible. Although rooted in the traditions of Persia and with influences from Turkey and other parts of the Middle East, this is not difficult music for anyone hearing it for the first time.
- Come, let your heart become as empty as a desert
Come, let our eyes see beyond the expanse of the sea
Come, let us build a home from divine feathers
One home built from nothing but love
The nine tracks all feature beautiful Iranian percussion – there is some lovely frame drum playing on Tam e Eshq, Eyvallah Shahim and Marg e Man in particular. The drums and percussion are mixed high in all the tracks which I like. When playing is that tasteful I want to hear it! There is some evocative flute on some tracks (I presume a ney) and various stringed instruments are perfectly set in the mixes, audible yet without detracting from Azam Ali’s (as always) exquisite vocals. She sings in Dari, Farsi, Urdu and Turkish. Melodies sometimes dip into those gorgeous Persian modes that instantly transport the listener to a distant land – check out the flute in Eyvallah Shahim. Niyaz are not a traditional folk band, however, and there is understated electronica underpinning most of this album. It merges seamlessly with the acoustic instruments.
Niyaz say this about the album:
“The Fourth Light” is a tribute to the first female Sufi mystic and poet Rabia Al Basri (Rabia Al Adawiyya) who was born in the 8th century in Iraq. The album features original songs we have composed inspired by her great spirit and universal message of love. In today’s modern world where women are still striving in every aspect of life, to rise above the status of inferiority placed on them by patriarchal societies and laws, Rabia represents a true feminine icon that embodies every aspect of feminine and spiritual liberation. The Fourth Light will also feature several old folk songs from Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey with new and modern arrangements. One of the cornerstones of our music has always been the underlying social message aimed at raising awareness about the plight of ethnic and religious minority groups in the Middle East.
It’s an album I recommend without hesitation, uplifting and beautiful.
- Album details: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/niyaz
Our latest podcast is available from
- Drop the Bass
- Princess Monomenoke
- Snake Charmer
- Disco el Khema
Khan El Rouh
- Kecak Calling
- Basmati Riddim
- Digital Nomad
- New Ji-Had
- Africa 138
Sherwood and Pinch
“Spiritual life can certainly follow the pattern one sees in the fake martial arts, with most teachers making nebulous and magical claims that never get tested, while their students derange themselves with weird ideas, empty rituals, and other affectations.”
- Khalifah (Analogue Fakir Mix)
- Shadow Warrior
- Singing in Tongues (Dub Colossus Remix)
- Babylon Flamenco in Dub
Nuphlo & Osmani Soundz
- The Stones at the Feet of a Prophet
Secret Archives of the Vatican
- Sofia, the Saracen’s Daughter
- At the Strike of Dawn
“The important thing is to polish wisdom and the mind in great detail. If you sharpen wisdom, you will understand what is just and unjust in society and also the good and the evil of this world; then you will come to know all kinds of arts and you will tread different ways. In this manner, no one in this world will succeed in deceiving you. It is after this stage that you will arrive at the wisdom of strategy. The wisdom of strategy is entirely distinct. Even right in the middle of a battle where everything is in rapid movement, it is necessary to attain the most profound principle of strategy, which assures you an immovable mind. You must examine this well.”
Musashi Miyamoto, The Book of Five Rings
It’s a little later than planned but here’s episode 123 of our awesome podcast!
Available for download from iTunes
Stream from MixCloud
- Enter the Temple
- Self Pharoah
- Sultan Stomp
David Starfire feat Inner Forest
- Liasufam Desert
- Portishead The Walls Are Dripping Halloween Remix
- The Last Gospel (4 Man Func Mix)
- Simply Rolling
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.Dwight D Eisenhower