DooBeeDooBeeDoo Rec. Released: 2011
In the West, in the news currently we hear much about nations in distress, Iran being one such. When approximately a decade ago Iran was shaken by social unrest, many hoped it might herald a new, less authoritarian governing regime. Sadly, in common with many of its neighbours Iran did not however enter any such phase of significant liberalisation, so for many people the struggle continues. This album was recorded at that time of hope, between 2008 and 2011 by New York resident, Iranian SoSaLa, full name Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi, and his 12 -piece improvising jazz – ‘world music’ band. Mixing old instruments with modern, this album feels as relevant today as it did when it was recorded.
Tenor saxophonist, vocalist and committed music activist, SoSaLa produces music that is hard to pigeon-hole – but then, why should we? An Iranian who was raised in Germany, subsequently for several years SoSaLa studied Kendo in Japan whilst engaging with the evolved music scene there, before moving to New York a decade ago to continue developing his own music and music activism. But even amidst New York’s cultural and musical diversity, this is a voice that stands out.
Opening track ‘Ja-Jou-Ka’ referring to the famed Moroccan Sufi musical groups of the same name, begins wistfully with the band leader on sax and “Indofunk” Satish on trumpet, then gradually morphs into a heightened, Persian/metropolitan New York-style version of the original Moroccan sounds. This is followed by equally roisterous ‘Nu Persian Flamenco’, showcasing standout guitarist Alejandro Castellano, his trippy, flamenco forms pushing through a robust, multi-coloured rhythmic backdrop. Throughout these two pieces, indeed during most of the tracks, SoSaLa declaims his messages of freedom and empowerment.
Third piece, ‘Welcome New Iran’ at 8 minutes 45 seconds feels like the centrepiece of the album and is perhaps the most powerful of all. Pensive sax figures grow ever more portentous, merging with what sounds like recordings of Iranian or Arab Spring crowd uprisings, including gun shots. SoSaLa urges us on in both Farsi and English. “Together we’re powerful! Freedom calls us!”
All tracks on the album are composed by SoSaLa other than the fourth, traditional tune ‘Khorasan’ which he arranged. Intriguing rhythms enhance the ear-worm melody; the weft of ‘western’ instrumentation (saxophone, electric trumpet and electronics) woven through the warp of ‘traditional’ (sabar, tama, tar and tambin) is wholly effective.
Fifth piece ‘Vatan Kojai?’ features once again some truly lovely guitar from Castellano, with beautiful tama (talking drum) from Massamba Diop inter-twining SoSaLa’s sax, whilst Sylvain Leroux’s tambin (fula flute) opens gorgeously on sixth tune, ‘Happy April Fool’s Day’. The subsequent two pieces, ‘NY’s Sa-Si-Su-Se-So’ and the airy, whispery ‘Sad Sake’ both reference SoSaLa’s Japan years, while the final piece ‘Everyday Blues’ grounds us back in prosaic reality and features more captivating guitar. All tracks are thoughtful, rousing and rather beautiful.
SoSaLa is a fully paid-up member of that heterogeneous fellowship of protest musicians that I would argue includes the likes of New York’s Jaimie Branch, London’s Sons of Kemet and Gothenburg’s new kids on the block, Beloveds. Nu World Trash is an emotionally and intellectually engaging album which despite being released 9 years ago, chimes in with the present, latest upsurge of protest song, whilst bringing together on one album the sounds of many different world cultures. Some liner notes and translations might have added further to the enjoyment of such a rich album. Nevertheless, the free feel, the variety of globe-spanning musical genres referenced, the variety of instrumentation together with the sincerity of the calls to protest clearly has widespread appeal, and not only in Iran or the USA.
Nu World Trash is available from cdbaby and Amazon. Later this month (February 2020) three tracks featuring SoSaLa will be released on German producer Genetic DruGs’ Waves For The Universe, on Pharma Tunes and will be available on Apple Music and Amazon. The first of these tracks can be heard now on Soundcloud : https://soundcloud.com/genetic-drugs/mystical-full-moon-hymn-for
Band members: SoSaLa / Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (vocals, tenor sax), Alejandro Castellano (guitar), Derek Nievergelt (bass), Damon Banks (bass), Swiss Chris (drums), Kurt Dahlke (electronics), “Indofunk” Satish (“Firebird” electric trumpet), Mar Gueye (sabar), Massamba Diop (tama or talking drum), Ladell Mclin (guitar), Piruz Partow (electric tar), Sylvain Leroux (tambin or fula flute).
Declaration: For several years I have from time to time published reviews on DooBeeDooBeeDoo – New York, the musical companion webzine to SoSaLa’s organisation, Musicians For Musicians (MFM), which advocates for Musicians’ Rights, especially fair pay for US musicians.