Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Is this label the new ECM?


When a record company changes ownership it is time to worry. But not only has Harmonia Mundi under new owners Belgium independent record company PIAS maintained its unique identity as a leading classical, jazz and world music label, but the new owners have rekindled the creative fires that were flickering during the years following the death in 2010 of its charismatic founder Bernard Coutaz. Examples of this rejuvenated creativity on HM's Latitudes sub-label that have already featured On An Overgrown Path are Thrace from the quartet of Ensemble Intercontemporain cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, the Chemirani percussion playing brothers and lyra prodigy Sokratis Sinopoulos, and Dawâr, the mystic percussion hymn from Trio Chemirani.

Now comes Hawniyaz from the unlikely eponymous quartet of three Kurdish musicians Kayhan Kalhor on kamancheh - a spike fiddle - vocalist Aynur and Cemîl Qoçgirî on tenbûr lute, together with Azerbaijani jazz pianist Salman Gambarov. Kayhan Kalhor is best known for his ECM albums, and Hawniyaz exhibits all the creative flair that has been lacking from many recent releases from the venerable German label. Hawniyaz is that rare animal, a music fusion project that does not descend into confusion - sample via this link. The Kurdish and Azerbaijani musicians were brought together by the founder of the Morgenland Festival Osnabrück Michael Dreyer, and his savvy sleeve note delivers an important message:
Hawniyaz have created a new musical universe which brings together Kurdish music, Persian music and jazz with an instinctive ease which reminds us that boundaries between different cultures have always been fluid, that cross-fertilisation has always taken place, that culture has always been and always will be dynamic - and not only in this area of the world. Incidentally, perhaps herein lies an argument to counter Western fears of the threat posed to "its" culture by the arrival of those from different cultural backgrounds looking for refuge and somewhere to call home.
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