Gaguik Mouradian

Kamantcha Solo

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The kamantcha is a string instrument of Iranian origins but of use in most Caucasian and Middle Eastern regions. Its range resembles a violin but it is played vertically, with the musician turning the instrument on its axis to present one of the four strings to the bow (which is held in a horizontal plane). Badly played, it can sound particularly screechy, but do not fear anything like that on Gaguik Mouradian's CD. These 12 pieces are all kamantcha, all solo, all deeply moving. The instrument can have a very mournful, plaintive tone, and Mouradian taps into this feature, interpreting traditional Armenian songs with a level of emotion and empathy that recalls the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; no, the comparison is not stretched -- this music will send shivers down the spine of anyone interested in native music from this part of the world. Mouradian's repertoire is exclusively Armenian, from traditional melodies that go back to the Middle Ages to pieces by Sayat Nova, Achour Djivani, and Goussan Achod that cover a wide period ranging from the 18th century to the 1980s. Most of the music is soft-spoken, pensive, delicate, and very evocative in this stripped-down setting. The bow often barely touches the string -- a weep, a sigh in "Nuit de Lune" (Moon Night), a heartbreaking cry in "Récitatif." More playful pieces like "Vilayeti dil Kiach" or the self-explanatory "Avec le Rossignol..." (With the Nightingale...) ensure that the album doesn't sink into its own sadness. The sound of the kamantcha has been beautifully captured. Émouvance, a label usually focusing on avant-garde jazz, went out of its way for this production, and with fantastic results. Strongly recommended.

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