Badakhshan Ensemble: Song and Dance from the Pamir Mountains (Smithsonian/Elite)

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Badakhshan Ensemble: Rapo
Badakhshan Ensemble: Song and Dance from the Pamir Mountains (Smithsonian/Elite)

Okay, this is not for everybody ("Who is that?" said my wife, and not in a favourably curious way) but the previous collection in this Music of Central Asia series (see tag) was an impressive package of a CD, an excellent doco-DVD, and a very useful essay in the booklet.

This equally handsome pack, volume five in the series, introduces music from the mountainous region around Tajikistan and Afghanistan where people in the valleys have little contact with each other, and so distinctive cultural practices and musics have developed.

This ensemble plays folkloric songs from the region but are also pragmatists: "We don't perform folklore at weddings, "says founder Soheba Davlatshoeva, "if we did, no one would hire us. What people want to listen and dance to is pop music."

That pop isn't like our pop however, as the DVD here -- with shots of the dramatic landscape and remote villages -- illustrates.

The CD however favours the traditional songs drawn from popular poems and texts by the likes of Rumi and Hafiz. There are instrumental pieces here which in my view are pretty exceptional . . . but that is not a view shared.

If someone yells from the other room "Who is that?" it is nice to be able to yell back, "Why this is the Hafiz poem Zohidi Pokizasirisht set to music by Mukhtor Muborakqadamov and performed by the Badakhshan Ensemble. The singer is Aqnazar Alovatov incidentally."

That stops 'em in their tracks -- and they'll never ask the question again.

They might insist you or this fascinating album in an excellent series move out however.

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