Yol Bolsin

Sevara Nazarkhan

Released 03 February 2003

  1. Yor-Yor (Song To The Bride)
  2. Soqinomai Bayot
  3. Adolat Tanovari (Song Of Adolat)
  4. Ei Nozanin (Beautiful)
  5. Yol Bolsin (Where Are You Going?)
  6. Galdir
  7. Moghulchai Navo (Mochul Melody)
  8. Gazli
  9. Orik Gullaganda (When Apricot Blossoms)
  10. Yallajonim (My Dearest Song)
  11. Alla (Bahtimga Lullaby)

Liner notes

The history of a lone woman singing and accompanying herself on a string instrument is ancient. It is a familiar image in manuscripts and miniature paintings from Iran, Turkey, the Middle East, and China— the countries and regions of the legendary Silk Route. In places that evoke the exotic, like Bukhara and Samarkand —the cities of modern day Uzbekistan— music was advanced and courtly. A female singer and instrumentalist epitomised high culture.

Sevara Nazarkhan —an Uzbek singer, songwriter and musician— is a direct descendent of this past. Her instrument is the doutar – a 15th century, two-stringed, Central Asian lute that is plucked not strummed. For this album’s doutar-playing, however, Sevara borrows the hands and experience of Toir Kuziyev, a master of instrumentation. In Toir’s hands and Sevara’s voice an ancient tradition breathes.

This music is a meeting place between old and new. Along the Silk Route, even today, some traditions haven’t faded. Folk songs from the 16th and 17th centuries underpin the popular music of the region. Unlike the West which has no musical equivalent, centuries-old maqams —cycles of vocalisation and instrumentation— are performed and danced to by old and young alike. Time and music actually do stand still in Central Asia.

This dichotomy exists within Sevara’s own oeuvre. In Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, she is a pop star. Her first group in 1998 was a soulful women’s quartet. A year later, she released her debut album and established herself as a solo singer. In parallel to this, from 1998 to earlier this year Sevara studied voice at the Tashkent State Conservatoire, where folk music is a rigorously taught and transmitted musical art under the country’s formidable singers and ethnomusicologists.

Sevara’s choice of material for this album —folk, Sufi and peasant songs— is rooted in the Near and Middle East, where the instrumentation, whether on doutar or doira —a women’s small, flat drum— follow patterns of vocalisation. Oral poetry has a special significance in Uzbekistan, where the term for male bards, bakhshi, also means healers who use music as a conduit to the spirit world. If music is a social document, songs like Yor-Yor represent the halfway point between the city and the rural countryside. Other songs on the album are dominated by natural imagery: the white snake, the steps that become flowers— symbols for heartache and freedom.

Yet, Sevara, the pop star, is no stranger to popular music trends. With samples, electric guitars and keyboards the album didn’t fully begin to flower until record producer Hector Zazou, from France, immersed himself in the tastes and smells of contemporary Uzbekistan. Yet these evocative songs remain outside time and essentially Central Asian.

The real lesson of Sevara’s unique musical journey is that time goes beyond convenient segments of past and present. It is a never-ending Möbius ribbon of emotions, sounds and ideas.

The official video for the album's title track, 'Yol Bolsin'

Reviews

  • With gifted producer Hector Zazou adding subtle beats and trademark electronic shimmers, the result is a warm but eerily atmospheric album. A slow charmer. The Observer (UK)
  • Sevara...possesses a repertoire of beautiful original songs and a voice that is nothing if not spellbinding. Billboard (UK)
  • Loops and samples share the spotlight with the Uzbeki instruments, and over the top soars a quite unforgettable voice. MOJO (UK)
  • It's a compelling atmospheric backdrop for Nazarkhan and Kuziyez to weave their spell... Nazarkhan's voice is impressive, taking on her material confidently but not reverentially, not afraid to bring personal interpretations to the plate. Global Rhythm (USA)
  • Nazarkhan is possessed of a ravishing voice... It's exceptionally soothing and beautiful. Word (UK)
  • Sevara Nazarkhan plays brilliantly with traditional and modern ideas of female identity, contrasting fire and ethereality, and creating moments of intense fragile beauty...French producer Hector Zazou space-warps the sultry twanging of the doutar lute, while giving free rein to Nazarkhan's beguilingly milky voice-letting the operatic pop idol and the other-worldly sufi chanteuse elide over gently throbbing digital grooves. What might have ended as generic "world soup" makes entrancing and highly sophisticated contemporary mood music. A major talent in making. The Telegraph (UK)

Listen

Further Listening

  • Sen

    Sevara Nazarkhan

    Released 01 July 2007

    Sen - which means 'you' in Uzbek - sees the irrepressible, ever curious artist Sevara Nazarkhan leaping boldly into contemporary writing and production. This is the album she has always wanted to make: a looping, shimmering, beats-laden gem underscored by traditional instrumentation and Uzbek-language lyrics provided by past and present Uzbek poets.
  • Moonsung (A Real World Retrospective)

    Sheila Chandra

    Released 06 April 1999

    Starting off with a reprise of ‘Ever So Lonely’, the Top 20 pop hit she had as a teenager with her band Monsoon, Moonsung gathers together the finest moments from the three albums that Anglo-Indian singer Sheila Chandra made for Real World in the 1990s.

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