Shahrzad Sepanlou- “1001 Nights”

Avang Music Co.
2003 (1382)

In 1995, the first full-fledged Iranian girl-group entered the ARENA of Iranian music!! SILHOUETTT was a trio consisted of three young lead-vocalists, namely Mehrana, Sharareh and Shahrzad!! Developed and managed by the talented JAZZ-musician Farzin Farhadi and the always hyper-active musical “entrepreneur” Shahbal Shabpareh, the innovative project offered the music fans of all ages, a fine and mature blend of Harmony-POP/Smooth-JAZZ and delicate lyrics!! Their debut-album “Aab & Aatash & Khaak” became both critically acclaimed and broadly embraced!! In 1998, however, one of the original members decided to leave the group, because of personal reasons!! That member was Shahrzad Sepanlou, the talented daughter of two of our country’s highly acclaimed and renowned poets/writers, namely Partow Nooriala and M. A. Sepanlou!! Even though SILHOUETTT did continue in different shapes and constellations after Shahrzad’s departure, her absence from the music scene became truly unbearable for her fans!! But the disappointment came to an end in 2000 with Shahrzad’s highly anticipated comeback as a solo-artist!!! And to her fans great satisfaction, Shahrzad had not only preserved the popular and suitable Harmony-POP/Smooth-JAZZ style of the “Aab & Aatash & Khaak” in her solo-album “Ghesseye Maa”, but she had also added a highly appreciated socio-political dimension to it!!!

Today is the “deer-eyed” Shahrzad back with her second full-length, tastefully entitled “1001 Nights”!! After the tremendous success of “Ghesseye Maa”, Shahrzad has decided to continue the elaborate collaboration with Farzin Farhadi, her parents and Paksima Zakipour!! She has also employed lyrics from Kambiz Mirzaei and the late Forough Farrokhzad, while presenting one of her own pieces!! The album contains seven brand new tracks, and is released on Avang Music Co.!! With a very “chic” cover and package design by the multi-talented Nami!!! When you do have such a classic beauty to portray, it would be a great shame to hold back on extra material, specially photos!! As many art-works do!! But I am glad to say that this album meets the expectations by having a rich and generous booklet, equipped with many lovely pictures, lyrics and designs!! A lovely package design is truly the finishing “dot” over the “I”, as I have said many times before!! …so well done my dear friends!!!

The collection takes off with the title-track!! “1001 Shab” is an up-beat track, with a suitable dramatic intro!! It’s an amazing song of EPIC-proportions!! “Mirror, Mirror on the wall!!…”, Shahrzad asks,…well I guess there is no need for us to ask the mirror, cause we all know who the fairest of them all is!!! … our own lovely story-teller of course, …Shahrzad!!

It is then followed-up by a dark mid-tempo fare!! The mystical “Ghahre TO” is an honest confession and also, …a declaration of LOVE!!! It’s caressing melodies illuminate a beautiful tapestry of sound, with fluid earth-tones and “termeh”-pattern!!

The third song is my personal favourite from this album!! “Baa To” is both energetic and energising!! It is a lovely combination of melancholic melodies and euphoric emotions!! I love the more up-beat and MAINSTREAM POP-oriented style of this song!! …truly GORGEOUS!! I really hope that Shahrzad does continue to build further upon this style!!

Now to a song with a nationalistic/political stand!! “Aazaadi” is a lovely down-tempo ballad with an important message, disguised artistically and masterfully as a fable!! I love the moderate and subtle approach of Shahrzad!! Subliminal, but yet so EXPLICIT and EFFECTIVE!! A lovely performance by Jamshid and the rest of the choir!!

“Man aan Mojam” is a another beautiful NEW-AGE ballad, in the best Enigma and Delirium fashion!! There also exists clear influences from the traditional Persian-music and the SUFI-mysticism!! …Very intriguing, indeed!!

After having been carried on gentle wave of emotions, Shahrzad brings us to the main source!! … to the sea of enlightenment!! “Daryaayi” is a romantic, but dark ballad, based on a delicate poem by the late Forough Farrokhzad!! I absolutely love the fact that the employment of this piece has been authorised by Pouran Farrokhzad!! It truly shows Shahrzad’s deep and correct understanding of the artistic principles and ethics!! Something that I deeply appreciate, respect and praise!! …Well done Shahrzad-jan!!

Now to the last track of the album, and another one of my personal favourites!! This song features a piece, written and performed in English by Shahrzad herself!! “I Look For You” is simply gorgeous!! Here are the references to the works of Enigma even clearer!! I love ALL of Shahrzad’s contributions to this song, and truly hope that she brings them along to the future WORLD-MUSIC project, that she is planing with an Italian producer!! Because it would ensure its INTERNATIONAL HIT-potentiality, without a doubt!!

Shahrzad has inaugurated a new sound for the modern Iranian music and “1001 Nights” is an album that validates her exploratory style, ultimately!! “1001 Nights” taps expertly on the “Ghesseye Maa”-tradition, but it’s more “beat-oriented” than its predecessor!!! I was instantly taken with the songs’ lushness & sensuality!! As it was expected it has a very homogenous, cohesive and “mature” set of tracks!! Musically, the album formulates an intriguing symbiosis between the NEW-AGE musicality, native Middle-Eastern instrumentation and other WORLD-MUSIC influences, along with some CLUB-influences from the European ELECTRONICA/JAZZ-fusion, and also elements from the TRIP-HOP and Detroit-TECHNO!! It combines a wealth of velvety melodies, silky vocals, slippery beats and exotic ambience, without falling victim for the fusion’s diluting tendency!! “1001 Nights” is both about technical perfection and a precise ability to set a mood!! Much like the acclaimed “Mashoogh Haminjaast”-project, in which both Farzin Farhadi and Shahrzad were involved!!

If you are a fan of acts like Enigma, Delirium, Jazzanova, Kruder and Dorfmeister, Rykosopp, the Cafe del Mar-project, Portishead and even Dido and Björk, then “1001 Nights” ’s wondrous and dramatic compositions and it intelligent and soulful lyrics will elevate you up to an aural universe with buoyant atmosphere and an air of mystery and tension!! And eventually, …to a “PHONIC REVELATION”!! The songs’ inspirational texture and contemplative spirit are mellow enough for you to get stimulated by, while yet edgy enough to energise!! Not to mention the gentle power of Shahrzad’s “satin-smooth” and sultry voice, and her feminine and sensual vocal-styling!! With free references to the recital-technique of poets and even the vocal-styling of the traditional Persian music!! These together create something I like to call: … a “Tranquillising Energy”!!

Shahrzad’s “1001 Nights” is sophisticated and ambitious, …without being pretentious!! It’s feministic, …without being aggressive!! It’s political and nationalistic, …without being extremist and militant!! It’s a lovely book, masterfully written about LIFE, LOVE and PASSION!! It might not have exactly 1001 stories to tell, …but still its existing seven tales are intriguing enough for me to dim the lights, pour a glass of fine wine and relax on a comfortable lounge-chair in front of the window, …with a beautiful winter-night view in front of me!! As I see the snow-flakes fall in mesmerising pirouettes from the starry night-sky, I’ll surrender to the sweet and narrative voice of “Shahrzad-e Ghessegoo”, …and free-fall deep in her DREAM-world of modern fairy-tales and musical fantasies!!!

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!