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CD Review: Narrante by Golfam Khayyam and Mona Matbou Riahi

Golfam Khayyam – Guitar

Mona Matbou Riahi – Clarinet

Iranian guitarist Golfam Khayyam and her compatriot, clarinetist Mona Matbou Riahi, celebrate the rich musical heritage of their native land on the sublime Narrante. The Naqsh duo of Khayyam and Riahi have been working together since 2014, and their shared musical interests define the nine intimate duets that comprise this album.

One of the primary thematic threads is Iranian folk music, particularly from regions with unique harmonic traditions. The title track, for instance, is an intricately woven sonic tapestry with plenty of spontaneity that draws upon the rhythms and scales of Baluchistan. It opens with Riahi’s resonant notes punctuating Khayyam’s acerbic, expansive solo. As the music evolves, it transforms into a multifaceted, organic performance that grows in complexity and enchantment. The two musicians continuously embellish and reshape the vibrant melody as their instruments circle one another in a hypnotic and passionate dance.

Educated in European conservatories, Khayyam and Riahi bring distinctly modern and Western elements. The emotive “Battaglia” starts with Khayyam’s fiery percussive guitar and Rhaihi’s mystical, moaning clarinet. The utilization of silent pauses enhances the cinematic atmosphere and infuses it with an otherworldly serenity. Khayyam’s reverberating strums and Riahi’s breathy tones hint to the unbridled energy of free jazz by engaging in a fantastical and ethereal dialogue. The two women alternate contemplative stream of consciousness soliloquys filled with reserved fury and tender melancholy.

A tense and intriguing ambience imbues much of the recording. On “Lacrimae,” the inspiration for the dramatic and the introspective sounds come from the improvised songs of Kurdistan. Rhiahi’s evocative and lyrical lines meander around Khayyam’s ringing chords, and the piece alternates between wistful and pensive phrases and fervent sentimentality. It also melds oriental and occidental motifs into a satisfying whole.

Khayyam and Riahi have fused their various artistic influences into an ingenious and original work. Narrante is stirring and captivating, while also being provocative and graceful. It is a perfect testament to the universality of music.

—Hrayr Attarian

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