Ghasem Afshar- “Baazigar”

Soroush Media (Iran)
2003 (1382)

In the socio-political “vacuum” of 1979-1997, because of the intense intolerance and harsh restrictions on the existence and performance of the so called “west-oriented” POP-music in Iran, an underground artistic sub-culture came to life and began to expand with “sound-alike” artists who performed their respective LA-based artist’s “forbidden” music in secret parties and behind-closed-doors gatherings!! A sub-culture that came to practically “explode” out in the open in the aftermath of 2nd Khordad!! Hence was the first frontier of the new POP-movement mainly consisted of “sound-alikes”!! Shadmehr Aghili reminding of Siavash Shams, Khashayar Etemadi of Dariush, Hossein Zaman of Sattar, Ali Reza Assar of Amir Aram/(late)Farhad and Ghasem Afshar of no other than …Ebi!! Although there have emerged several Ebi-sound-alikes (some more and some less “alike”) since then, Afshar has been able to maintain his TOP-position in this “equipage”, due to his voice’s NATURAL resemblance to Ebi’s and his rather good sense for selection of material and collaborators!!

His brand new album, entitled “Baazigar” is entirely composed, arranged and produced by the talented M. R. Cheraghali!! For the lyrics of the album stand Fariba Vakili, Afshin Yadollahi, Afshin Siahpoush, Alireza Tehrani, Saeed Amiraslani, Shahram Gholami and finally, Mahmoud Ostad-Mohammad!! “Baazigar” contain 8 tracks and is released on Soroush Media!!

The album opens with “Hamghasam”, a GORGEOUS semi-Arabesque fare!! While the Arabesque-genre has existed in the domestic productions for a few years now, through the TARKAN-inspired POP-songs like the “Rangaarang”-theme, such a more original and RHYTHMIC form of it is rather new!! This is in fact, the first one I personally have heard on an Iranian album produced inside the country!! Cheraghalai is cautious enough to employ BELLY-DANCE music, without being too controversial (by domestic standards that is)!! The result is simply lovely!! Have you EVER imagined Ebi in an Arabesque-constellation?!!? If NOT, take a listen to this track!! …I’m sure that you’ll be positively surprised!! Who knows, you might lose a few prejudices along the way!!

Next is a mid-tempo Retro-POP song, reminding strongly of Shadmehr Aghili’s “Gharibe”, specially around the verses!! And of course, Afshar’s own ballads!! …”Gharibi” is NICE!!

While the Arabesque-genre hasn’t really established itself inside Iran yet, the Afghan-inspired POP genre has evolved relatively strongly!! “Delnegaroon” is a mid-tempo track with an intro resembling remarkably to Nooshafarin’s “Naazanine Aashegh”!! Cheraghalai has proved his sense for this particular sound before, through Hossein Zaman’s lovely “Mashghe Eshgh”!! This GORGEOUS song confirms it further!!

“Asir” is initially led by a lovely piano, backed up by the string-section!! It's a very lovely and nostalgic Retro-Romantic BALLAD!!

It is then followed up by “Mabade Sharghi”, a nice Retro-Romantic track with a very DRAMATIC intro!! The song recreates a very mournful atmosphere, which gets further emphasised through its subtle funeral-inspired beats!! Reminiscent of Afshar’s “Khaabe Geryehaa”-album!!

The electric guitars turn on the sixth track of the album!! “Faryaad” is an up-beat DISCO/POP tune!! Another one of my personal favourites, I must admit!! This style is just PERFECT for Afshar’s voice!! The Chorus blows you away, by technically arranging a VOCAL-DUEL!! Between Afshar and …himself!! …Simply GORGEOUS!!

Titled just like the Googoosh-HIT, “Shabe Shisheyi” takes off very PINK FLOYD-ian!! With lovely guitars CRYING in it SOUND-SET!! Then it is up to the saxophone to lead the way for this lovely and up-beat NRG/HOUSE-inspired fare!!

Unlike many artists, Afshar has choosed to “seal” his album with the title-track!! “Baazigar” is a Retro-POP BALLAD!! Very classic and dramatic!! “Zendegi baazi o man …bazigaram” Afshar sings, and closes the album!!

By now, I think that we all do agree on that Afshar IS an Ebi-sound-alike!! And nowadays even a “look-alike”, …almost!! And it is almost an indisputable fact, that even Afshar himself can’t argue about!! So knowing this fact, how comes that we still regard him as a SERIOUS artist?? My theory is that while there are some “tongue-in-cheek” impersonators out there, Afshar is death-serious about his choice of artistic orientation!! And to be completely honest, he does it so well that we almost, …ALMOST forget the highly tangible and basically unavoidable references and resemblances to Ebi’s voice, vocal styling and music!! Mainly because Afshar himself IS a huge fan of Ebi and his music!! And he has obviously studied his songs and vocal-styling very elaborately!! And it doesn’t exactly hurt the case, when the man possesses such a naturally GREAT voice, regardless of who he tries to impersonate with his vocal-styling!! In my opinion Afshar is a very talented artist, …because it requires nothing but a “talent” to come soooo close to an unreachable original, so SKILFULLY!!

Afshar’s new album is a lovely POP-creation in the same style as his previous album, “Baraaye Khaatere To” was!! I personally prefer his current UP-BEAT style better, but most of his fans still consider the beautiful Retro-Romantic debut, “Khaabe Geryehaa” as his BEST album yet!! “Baazigar” is not as strong as its older “sibling”, when it comes to being a “collection”!! Its strength lays instead in its, although few, but very INNOVATIVE and RHYTHMIC songs!! I admit that I’m one of those music-fans who loves the OLD-SCHOOL sounds of artists like Ebi, Googoosh and Dariush slightly more than their current lovely ones!! They simply appeal to me in a more “profound” way!! And while these artists have developed and moved on by more-or-less putting that sounds behind themselves, it is a true LUXURY to have someone who still does it in the old way!! And that very respectfully and GRACEFULLY!!

Note: the image displayed above is not the original album-cover image!! (Special thanks to my dear friend Shahab!!)

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!