Sheherazaad: Qasr (Erased Tapes/digital outlets)

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Khatam
Sheherazaad: Qasr (Erased Tapes/digital outlets)

With a variation on the name of the tale-teller in the famous folk-tale The One Thousand And One Nights (and which in Hindi and Urdu translates to “free city”), this San Franciscan singer/composer -- now based in Brooklyn -- arrives with at least one impeccable recommendation: her album is produced by Arooj Aftab who'd heard some of her home recordings and offered assistance.

On the Erased Tapes label which has released challenging but often extraordinary left-field albums, Qasr (fortress in Urdu) presents five diverse pieces from the dreamlike vocal on Mashoor/Famous over Spanish guitar and Middle Eastern percussion to the seven minute Lehja which evokes a mysterious night in a souk or a half remembered scene from a film where someone plays a santoor as a mysterious woman dances slowly behind a translucent curtain.

As with Aftab's albums, this is music which transports – perhaps because there are no English lyrics to ground it – although Sheherazaad's world sounds more steeped in sadness and loss. (Which is ironic given those were what fed Aftab's Vulture Prince.)

Much could be made of her being the voice of the diaspora of her Middle Eastern origins and how she has transposed traditional sounds and styles into the contemporary world of folk-pop world music as on the layered production of Koshish or the beguiling Khatam (which some might place alongside Kate Bush).

But -- as with so many artists who exist between past and present, the here and there -- Sheherazaad presents as an artist tied to all of these, yet somehow finding a personal freedom because of them rather than being constrained within them.

One for deep and frequent immersion.

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You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here


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