Various Artists

Music of Central Asia, Vol. 1: Tengir-Too - Mountain Music of Kyrgyzstan

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This might be a manufactured excursion into Central Asian roots, but it's one with integrity, with the intention of going to the heart of the music of Kyrgyzstani mountain music. These are traditional and nostalgic pieces, as well as modern tunes and songs that evoke the past, all exquisitely performed. What's perhaps surprising is how un-alien it all sounds, from the flute melodies of "Kyz Oigotoor," which conjures up images of the Andes, to the brilliant full-throated singing of "Kyiylp Turam," which sounds European. But even the most Kryzyg pieces, such as the jew's-harp feature that opens the album, don't come across as especially strange, given their galloping rhythms that pull the ear along. In fact, everything here is a gem, thanks to the wonderful work of the band (and it's worth adding that the overall package is superb, with extensive notes and an accompanying DVD), whose thoughtful and imaginative arrangements make the most of the melodies and rhythms. The members of Tengir-Too, all virtuosos without ever flaunting the fact, make some glorious music. This offers a window on a relatively unknown world, and shows the view to be incredibly appealing.

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