Album review: The Fourth Light by Niyaz
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