Ali Ashabi- “To Raast Migi”

IranGam (Iran)
2010 (1389)

Ali Ashabi is the latest undergrounder to go legal. After years of underground activities and an unsuccessful attempt to an acting career his legal debut entitled “To Raast Migi” finds its way to the market after a delay which was supposedly caused by the material finding its way to the internet pre-permit and making the ministry questioning Ashabi’s role in it all. However Ashabi recently appeared together with other stars such as Reza Sadeghi and Mohsen Chavoshi on a religious compilation called “Hasht”, dedicated to Imam Reza, a move which according to rumors vouched for his character in Ershaad’s eyes and secured his legal position and a permit. “To Raast Migi” features 12 tracks and is released on IranGam which is currently, in these days of economy, the label with the largest roster in Iran. In order for the album to avoid a total commercial failure the songs have been “tjuzsed up” even when it comes to their titles! What’s interesting is that this album features works by domestic artists who have been suspended indefinitely from artistic activities, mainly due to their frequent collaborations with LA-artists. Thus Taraneh Mokarram, Roozbeh Bemani and Elias Shirzad have all works that have been credited by their pseudonyms, however it is not clear which pseudonym belongs to whom! Other than Taraneh who is the only female contributor. The names according to the list of credits are Hadi Ashabi, Hamid Farhadi, Yaha Kashani, Anoushirvan Taghavi, Ramin Foroughi, Nassim Ghasivand, Shahab Ghasivand, Pouyan Shariati, Nasser Zeynali, Bahareh Mokarram (is it that easy to loophole the system?!), Rahim Bayazidi, Kooshan Haddad and Ashkan Abravan. The pairing of the last two names as two of the three arrangers of the collection is purely coincidental. While Kooshan is the same Kooshan who has previously been a part of Ashkan and Kooshan, Ashkan is not that Ashkan. This is to my knowledge the second legal album that Kooshan has been involved in, after Farzad Farzin’s latest “Shaans”. Sadly we do not know which of the songs has been arranged by whom, since the album for an unclear reason doesn’t present each song’s arranger while it does so with its composer and lyricist. My guess is that one of the remaining two arrangers, Anoushirvan or Ashkan, are in fact Elias who has been a long time side-kick of Ashabi and a relatively sought after arranger in the underground world. 

The album opens with “Faghat Toro Daaram”, a pulsating song composed by Ashabi himself and lyrics written by his father or brother (father according to press but brother according to other sources) Hadi Ashabi. This is one PROGRESSIVE HOUSE production with a nice flow and catchy hook. I sense and suspect a Kooshan signature in its arrangement. Excellent opener which sets the bar high right away, let’s see if the rest can measure up to it!

It is followed by the title-track which doesn’t match the previous in terms of construction but luckily enjoys an equally crisp production quality. This is a rather experimental and fresh take on the whole PROGRESSIVE ARABESQUE style. I only hope “To Raast Migi” doesn’t end up having an uncredited Turkish original somewhere!

Turkish vibes remain as the album drops tempo for a ballad reminiscent of Shahram Solati’s similar ballads. “Gharibe” is a decent but cookie-cutter underground ballad, nothing extraordinary in any way. 

“Baavare Mahaal (Aashegh Shodam)” sounds like something I’ve heard before, I don’t know whether it is or sounds like an old song of Ashabi himself. Needless to say this smells an Elias Shirzad production a long, long way! Again, this is nothing like the first track but still a treat for the fans of this particular signature. 

Speaking of the devil! Or better said, devils! “Oon Roozaa (MultiMix)” is basically a remixed medley which takes trip down the memory lane and sums up the guy’s underground career in a revising and revamping manner. Some songs have been lyrically modified to keep their typical underground “hate” themes toned down. It is most likely a cleanup for both the ministry and the families’ approval, since now Ashabi must attract even the cash-paying parents as well as the rebellious teens! 

To my disappointment and to the fans’ excitement comes another typical underground oriented track, albeit with a crispier sound and progressive production. We’re now halfway through the album with “Mano Bebakhsh” and so far it’s been a bumpy ride, of the less enjoyable kind! 

It seems like they’ve decide to give us a cassette style break with a progressive REMIX of the title-track! Badly-timed refreshment courtesy of … Kooshan?!

Next comes the only composition by Zeynali which makes it a welcomed addition to the collection’s variety. “Ghahr o Aashti” sounds crisp and catchy, it has a conventional structure and a polished presentation. Reminiscent of some of Sirvan’s ELECTRO-POP arrangements with throbbing beats. Well done! My favorite track on the album, so far. 

It’s been a while since we heard mid-tempo ballads coming from the domestic industry, especially one without Turko-ARABESQUE influences! “Mosaafer” which is the second track composed by Ashabi is a nice song that is a nod to the old ELECTRO-POP ballads of the 90’s with cinematic and continental influences. Have you ever counted the number of Persian ballads from the 90’s featuring a saxophone? Now that is “trend” defined! Admittedly this song is nowhere near perfect, even outdated, but I’m a sucker for its direction! 

Let’s stay in the 90’s, in fact let’s put a foot one step back into the 80’s! “Khejaalati (Roum Nemishod)” is a song which departs from the man’s usual style in verses but elevates to something catchy and nostalgic in its chorus. HI-NRG aka misnomer Persian Techno, reminiscent of a song I can’t really put my finger on (maybe you can?)! I just love the climax and the lush arrangement, this will be my second favorite track. 

As the readers of my blog know I am an advocator of the big V-day! But I had no idea that this Western commercial day has got big even in Iran, until I heard the TM BAX song that is!lol “Valentine (Rooze Aasheghi)” is a 50’s ROCK’n’ROLL ballad which sounds much like Samyar’s Christmas song, since that too is built on this American schablon! It should also be mentioned that this song has had an official underground release before.

The album ends then with an instrumental version of “Mosaafer”, featuring a crying violin which clashes with the European nature of the song! I would have rather heard it in a more ELECTROfied remix.

I am glad that this former undergrounder and his still undergrounder company didn’t include the conventional and extremely annoying singer/arranger presentation in the beginning of every single song even on the official album. Like some have done in the past. I must say that it’s the first time I noticed a tendency in Ashabi’s voice to resemble Kamran’s (& Hooman)! In fact in some songs, like the Valentine track, it gets to the extent of a sound-alike attempt and it wouldn’t surprise me if once upon a time he’s been a Kamran soundalike gigging the underground scenes of Tehran. Having said that, I was rather pleased with this album. Not impressed though, not really, by the album in its entirety. But neither was I disappointed. Not saying this is a weak album, not by a long shot! It’s just not as high end as it had promised to be. The production is uneven and inconsistent from song to song, creating something of a bumpy ride in terms of quality. Not to mention the badly arranged track listing which resembles the cassette tape days’, when a remix or instrumental track was placed on the end of each side of the tape and consequently the a-side’s ended up right in the middle of the CD’s tracklist as an unwanted bump! They have put most of the less innovative tracks in the first half of the road and left the most experimental for last. Creating a mode-killing vacuum between the bombastic opener and the worthy follow ups in the second half. This could have worked if this had been an alternative genre, but when it comes to DANCE it’s a mode-kill! 

“To Raast Migi” has its gems, some of the best productions released in recent year as a matter of fact, but having these in blend with plastic beads makes the 12-rock necklace that it is look a bit cheaper than its shiniest links! Nonetheless it is an album with lots of replay-value which warrants a purchase, if nothing else, to support the presence of those in whose absence the likes of Sirvan and Benyamin tend to get the delusion of grandeur and turn the music scene and media into a cockpit for a cockfight! So if you do appreciate the music featured on this album do show your support for cultivation of a more pluralistic culture and a thriving industry.

Note: thanks to Peyman.

Overall Performance: ++
Artistic Ambition: ++
Commercial Potential: +++
Aesthetic Presentation: ++
Ethical Adherence: +++
[ +++ > --- ] 

Review by: Pourya E.

Reviews described herein are mere opinions, and must be construed in that manner only! In other words they are not absolute!