EVERYTHING IS MUSIC (Self-published)
Here’s a band that takes the potpourri approach to the music of the world, combining as they do members from India, Africa and the Americas. Based in Austin, Texas which is known for country, folk and Latin music, Atash feels more at home with flamenco, reggae, jazz, rock and Indian classical music. Their name comes from the Persian word for “Fire” and refers to Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic religion of sun-worshippers. Another classical reference is in the album’s title which comes from Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi poet. Just as fire is one aspect of the life force, music is the essence of our being. Individuals bring musical ideas to the group then everyone throws in what they want — the result is a blend of all their backgrounds. I thought I would be turned off by this but the blend of oud and sitar works, and the rhythms, whether Middle Eastern, African, or Other, are all well-suited to the tune at hand. The singer, Mohammad Firoozi, grew up in rural Iran. He led the call to prayer at the village mosque but secretly listened to Western rock ‘n’ roll broadcast from Kuwait on his dad’s radio. He would sing in pidgin English in clubs in Shiraz to crowds who didn’t understand him, and now, decades later, he sings in Farsi in Texas, again to an uncomprehending audience! His “Amshab” reminds me of ONB, it has a wonderful dubby bass ‘n’ drums and then the oud and strings (on Echoplex) take us back to the Grand Bazaar. I like this because it sounds authentic, it’s not a bunch of posers playing afrobeat, but people from divergent cultures coming together and sharing their joy of music. They worked on the album for over three years, writing new pieces and revising old ones. You can tell a lot of thought and effort went into it. The qawwali number, “Baaraan,” is a stand-out with tablas and handclaps, then bandleader Roberto Riggio comes in on mournful violin behind Firoozi working out on the vocals.
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ATASH/Everything is Music: What would world beat from Austin sound like if Latin music wasn’t in the mix? Well, this. Mixing Middle East and Indian vibes with rock, jazz and blues sensibilities, this crew does a fine job of approximating what would have gone on if Paul Battlefield hung out at a belly dance bar on Chicago’s west side back in the day. Got that? This is a zesty, well played set where the musos have the Mixmaster turned up high but the result is anything but a brown mush. Wild stuff for the open eared of any age looking for a world beat kick that gets it’s message across even if you don’t know what they are talking about. Check it out. Did we mention they even got Fareed Haque to stop by?