Mashriq Dilnura & Abror Zufarov

Samarkand & Beyond

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Though the title implies a cross section of Central Asia, the music on this album is indeed solely from Uzbekistan. The bulk of the performers hail from Tashkent (though whether that's where they started or where they've collected is left unsaid). Though the scope of influences is relatively rare by Arc's usual compilation standards, the performance quality is quite good. Dilnura Qodirjonova spends roughly a quarter of the album crooning in a strong voice with some similarities to the Mongolian long song form. At the same time, she plays a mean dutor to accompany herself. One stray track comes from excellent multi-instrumentalist Abror Zufarov as well, but the bulk of the album comes from the ensemble Mashriq. This group jumps from style to style, showing off song forms, instrumental, traditional, and new forms, one after the next in relatively quick succession. While a lot of the traditional pieces may sound somewhat familiar in their exoticism to the casual listener (Central Asian music has made its way into the background of the Western market and also shares some similarities with silk-and-bamboo music from China), the contemporary compositions may prove rather more exciting. In particular the new piece "Khurram" ("joyful" in Uzbek) gives the listener a throbbing array of strings and drums that is really the domain of crossover artists on the European market more often than not. While the traditional performances can get a bit tedious after a while, the contemporary pieces save this album and make it worth hearing for any contemporary world music fan.

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