Kayhan Kalhor: The Wind (2006)
In an exquisite moment on Kayhan Kalhor's last recorded collaboration, The Rain (ECM, 2003), tabla player Sandeep Das hits an "out" note on his tuned drum. This momentarily shocks Kalhor and sitarist Shujaat Khan, but soon brings a smiling murmur when he repeats it as if to say, "I meant that." The two soloists, Kalhor (from Iran) and Khan (from Northern India) had been blending their related but distinct musical traditions, battling while creating long, mystical and spiritual waves of sound. This one note caused the men to step back, before they plunged forward again.
The Wind is Kalhor's second musical journey outside of his native land, this time to Turkey to meet and learn from the premier baglama (saz) master, Erdal Erzincan. Kalhor plays kamanche (Iranian spike fiddle), which is usually bowed, and thus contrasts with the plucked sounds of both the sitar and oud-like baglama. Kalhor explains, as the proactive member of the project, that while he wishes to learn a new tradition, he also desires to bring a new aesthetic to his partner. Contemporary Turkish music tends to be based on song and vocals and thus is more limited than what Kalhor wanted to do or Erzincan was used to. However, Erzincan did not hesitate to jump whole-heartedly into the void, resulting in this exquisite record.
Made up of twelve unnamed "Parts" that run into each other, The Wind is really one long improvisation that rises and falls, inhales and exhales as Kalhor and Erzincan become one musician with one mind. Kalhor explains that he told Erzincan, "I'm looking for something that departs from nothing and then goes into developing material and then goes into something else really improvised. Maybe we'll go for a climax in terms of melody and energy and keep it there.... And I'm looking at this for a form for maybe an hour of music."
As with "The Rain," Kalhor seems to follow as much as he leads, which only means that his partners took his desire for a new form to heart. Indeed, Erzincan sounds on fire and totally at ease. Not only did he respond to Kalhor's statement of purpose with, "I haven't done that before, but I would like to do this," but he rose to the occasion, displaying not only virtuosity in the uncommon finger-style that he developed, but a command of the long improvised form that "surprised and delighted" Kalhor.
The record feels like one giant meditation, and an extremely strong feeling of tension is held for a long time, which might strain some listeners' attentive abilities. However, if you can let go and allow the music to wash over you, the hour will fly by.
Track Listing: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII; Part VIII; Part IX; Part X; Part XI; Part XII.
Personnel: Kayhan Kalhor: kamancheh (Iranian spike fiddle); Erdal Erzincan: baglama (Turkish oud-like instrument).