Amir Koushkani, tar (setar, vocals), François Houle (clarinets), Sal Ferreras (cajon, udu, bata drums, kulintang, bodhran, dumbek, timpani, miscellaneous percussion)
Although the 2400 series is Songlines' occasional world-music line, Vancouver's Safa make music with the open, improvisational approach and energy of jazz. Collectively its members have experience in many musical styles, including classical, new music, improv, and various Asian, European and Latin traditions. Safa was formed in 1999, a year after the release of Amir Koushkani's highly regarded debut CD, Quest (SGL 2402-2; **** "a very fresh-sounding and rewarding take on a musical idiom that has been around for centuries." - Alex Henderson, allmusic.com). Quest is a personal interpretation of the classical and folk music of Iran, Amir's homeland, and Alight too is largely based in Persian idioms, but with an exuberant new-world edge to complement the old world's passion and melancholy. From an improvised dialogue for clarinet and kulintang (Philippine gong row) to arrangements of four Sufi poems (sung in Farsi), Safa display a love of musical exploration and expression across cultures. The 24-bit recording was mixed in analogue to Direct Stream Digital.
A brief note about Sufism, a mystical tradition whose roots go back more than a thousand years in the cultures of the middle east: Sufi-inspired poems, or couplets from poems, are often used as texts in Persian classical music-making. For Sufis the ultimate goal is to lose one's separate, ego-identified self in the love of God, and intoxication through wine or the contemplation of earthly beauty is a way to this ecstatic state. Music, especially extemporized music, can also be a way into the eternal moment; as Amir writes in the notes to this disc, "A music that can be nourishment for the soul was my first priority." (Safa means "inner purity, sincerity, sincere affection" in Farsi.)
Amir Koushkani was born in Tehran in 1968 and from the age of 13 studied tar at the National Iranian Radio and Television's Centre for Preservation and Propagation of National Music, completing a four-year apprenticeship in the performance of tar and setar in 1984. Subsequently he became an instructor of tar at the Centre. In 1991 he emigrated to Canada, and since then he has concertized in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, as well as creating and performing the music for two plays on Sufi themes. He currently teaches and studies music and performs with his Moshtagh Ensemble. He has released duet CDs with violist Eyvind Kang and Iranian vocalist Khatereh Parvaneh