Nava – Tapestry
Self-Released – 2017
I’ve always loved multi-culturalism. The current rise of ultra-nationalism and open racism notwithstanding, history shows that the world has always been multi-cultural, and of course, with modern technology, that has only increased. Historians tell us how jazz and blues, arguably the foundation of modern pop and rock music, were born from a blending of freed slaves remembering their African heritage and the European musical traditions brought by pioneers.
But that is really just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on about how European music from different countries has many things in common, or how a Turkish folk song “Usku Dara” was incorporated into a klezmer tune “Der Terk in Amerika”, but you get the idea.
What’s fascinating to me is when the music of fairly different cultures mixes and produces a whole new and unexpected hybrid. The album Ladilikan by Kronos Quartet and Trio da Kali which I recently had the pleasure of reviewing is such an example. So I was very happy to get an email from a band called Navá, who mix traditional Irish and Persian music on their debut album Tapestry. Not an obvious combination, but it works surprisingly well. At times it’s hard to tell where one culture ends and the other one starts.
Comprised of folk/bluegrass musicians Paddy Kiernan and Niall Hughes together with Iranian born brothers Shahab and Shayan Coohe, Navá explores the ancient musical cultures of Ireland and Persia. Their unique sound melds Irish melodies with Persian ‘dastgáh’, alongside a host of original compositions. Their creative process is based around improvisation, a technique borrowed from the bluegrass background of the two Irish musicians of the ensemble.
Opener “The Rolling Wave – Chahar Mezrab” is a medley of an Irish and an Iranian jig and from there it moves into more exotic territory with Navá’s original material.
Many of the tunes are lively and fast-paced, perfect for dancing, but it’s some of the slower tunes that really caught my attention.
“Hess” is one of those achingly pretty melancholy songs that Irish traditional folk is known for, and the addition of traditional Persian instruments only helps to deepen the texture and the pervasive feeling of loss and melancholy. Beautiful and sad…my favourite combination in music.
“Seven Swans” sounds like the title to an ancient fairy tale, and the music does the title justice. Romantic, pretty, full of sparkling bell-like notes and textures that seem to come out of nowhere, it ebbs and flows beautifully like an old story full of strange twists and turns.
“The Persian Connection” is another one of the slower tunes and a beautiful closer to the album. Meditative, moving carefully and majestically, this tune reminds me in places of Yann Tiersen’s fabulous soundtrack for the movie Amelie.
Navá’s debut release Tapestry is a wonderful and intriguing blending of traditional Irish and Persian music by four excellent musicians from very different parts of the world. As the band themselves claim in a blog, this record is only scratching the surface of where their musical explorations will lead them. I like to think that this is a new and exciting path for music, as different cultures come together and create the new musical hybrid of the future. Once again, music brings us together as it always has.
More here: www.navatheband.com