Sevara Nazarkhan

Yol Bolsin

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Sevara Nazarkhan is a pop star in her native Uzbekistan. This Western debut is supposed to be more rooted in her Central Asian tradition. That's the idea; unfortunately, most of this comes across as slickly pop -- albeit decidedly left-of-center -- as anything she's scored with on the charts. And the reason is Hector Zazou's production. He's done some excellent work in the past, but this time out he's decided to smooth any possible rough edges in the music; add programming to everything, whether it needs it or not; and use the kid of harmonies that simply don't exist in Uzbeki traditional music. The result is a bland record, plain and simple. Yes, there's some excellent playing of the doutar by Toir Kuziyev, and Nazarkhan has a winning voice, but the settings they're given just blend into a sameness of lush keyboards, gentle bass, and subtle beats. Only the last track, "Alla," comes close to freeing them of that, while "Moghulchai Navo" starts hopefully, with a glorious unaccompanied vocal, only to hit a crescendo of strings. The truth is Nazarkhan doesn't need this decoration. With minimal instrumentation, she can carry these songs quite easily and have her voice shown off to greater advantage. Cross-cultural fusions are fine, if both cultures have something creative to contribute. In this case, the West falls drastically short

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