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World Music Features



By Derek Beres
Published January 8, 2006

Niyaz's self-titled debut album pulls from Indian and Persian folkloric music, intriguingly set to tastefully crafted beats. All of it is created by innate machines of loving grace.

“We all go to the arts to go beyond ourselves.”

A moment of silence passes from Azam Ali’s lips as Loga Ramin Torkian follows. “You should constantly reinvent yourself as an artist.”

If any two sentiments, or one extended sentiment spoken with two voices, applies to Niyaz (pronounced NEE-ahz), these would be their manifesto. Their self-titled debut on Six Degrees pulls from Indian and Persian folkloric music, intriguingly set to tastefully crafted beats by Carmen Rizzo, the third member of this breakthrough triad.

The combined experience of this outfit is itself memorable. Ali led her former project Vas, alongside percussionist Greg Ellis, through four outstanding records, as well as her solo Portals Of Grace. Born in Iran and nurtured in India, she has reinterpreted the classical and baroque music styles of numerous cultures with one of today’s most astounding voices, a quality instantly apparent on Niyaz. Torkian led Axiom of Choice on two modern translations of Persian music, Niya Yesh and Unfolding. The latter was an exploration of the mystic poet Omar Khayyam, and that trend continues here, devoted to the Sufi poetry of Jalalu’ddin Rumi, Sauda, Dard and Shad Azimabadi and others.

Rizzo has two Grammy nominations to his name, having worked alongside a diverse roster: Khaled, Paul Oakenfold, Ekova, Tiesto, Seal, Alanis Morissette, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cirque du Soleil are among his collaborators. Although never having worked with Persian instrumentation, his ability to finesse polished electronics into a raw, melancholic and soulful spine makes the record swing with an ambiance rare in global digitalism. You simply don’t know where computers begin and fingers end, but alas there’s the rub: all this is created by innate machines of loving grace.

“It’s really unfortunate people look down at the computer,” Rizzo says. “It’s a tool, an instrument, like anything else. It’s a different kind of talent. People have made amazing albums using just a computer or sampler. You have limitless opportunities using the computer, but you still have to know music and learn certain things.”

       As the low drone rises within a tech-heavy backbeat on “Golzar,” Torkian’s saz (long-necked lute) slowly adds a touching effect to the dusky rhythm. A peak emerges, then falls as Ali enters with the nimbleness of<