IRAN/FRANCE: Dawâr - Trio Chemirani
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
The father and son combo create a deeply spriritual sound, accessible for all human-kind
When this project to listen to and review music from every country in the world begun, one driving force behind it was to test out whether the lyric that 'music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand', from my ultimate musical hero Stevie Wonder, was merely absurd quixotism trying to suggest that an inherently divided word be bound together through song or whether there is something almost inescapable that connects us all regardless of culture. Whilst there have been numerous albums along the way that we have come across that have helped me to pursue a rather utopian belief in the universality of music, and as such hold onto hope that concepts such as nationality and race are merely socially constructed tools used to enable oppression that can be chipped away at due to our similarity as one human race, this particular record has enabled me to posit a valid defence of what some might label a naïve belief. The reason for this, quite simply put, is the power of the drum.
“Listening to the album is like sitting by a fire, the drum simply has a power to engulf all those that come near it and in doing so it brings the listener back to their most animalistic self....rather humbled and under a spell by something far greater than ourselves ”
We have reviewed Ghana's Bizung talking drum chief Mohamed Alidu as well as Uzbekistan’s very own ‘Master of Doyra’, and whilst I have found myself in awe of their talents it was only listening to father and son combo Trio Chemirani when I realised what all percussive geniuses of their ilk are gifted with that very few musicians are capable of. They are able to speak a dialect of this universal language that Stevie Wonder was referring to. For what it is worth, I have always understood the Sir Duke lyric to mean that music has an incredible capacity of transmitting love which of course is an emotion and sensation that transcends man-made borders. Whilst this slightly more philosophical analysis is likely to be what the great man was intending to reveal, Trio Chemirani’s masterful use of the drum enabled me to interpret things from a different perspective. There is something almost uniquely primitive about the beat of a drum.
As an instrument, the drum is a staple ingredient in almost any musician’s work, yet in the West there is a tendency to not let the drum take centre stage as the key communicator within a song and instead use lyrics or even other musical flourishes take the limelight, despite the fact that the drum is the instrument that holds together the attention of all those listening. This seemingly unique power that the instrument has to almost speak to our soul, is something that Trio Chemirani try to remind us of by bringing the drum to centre stage. Listening to the album is like sitting by a fire, the drum simply has a power to engulf all those that come near it and in doing so it brings the listener back to their most animalistic self. When I say, animalistic, I don’t mean impulsive and uninhibited, but rather humbled and under a spell by something far greater than ourselves that can makes us both stand still in awe and move our body in time with the beat often without realising.
The group don’t just intend to hypnotise us to prove a point about how powerful a tool percussive instruments are, but rather they use it to help connect us with a higher being. Coming from the school of sufism, Djamchid Chemirani and his sons include poetry on the album, most notably from arguably the world’s most well-known poet Rumi on the song Ärézoust. The very fact that they selected a poet whose work has been translated into many languages and is accessible regardless of culture and faith indicates that the trio want this album to reveal a message to everyone who listens to it. What the group do that separates them from other incredible percussionist groups, such as the world-famous The Drummers of Burundi, is that they have had a sense of awareness about the differences between keeping a listener hooked for an album and for a live performance. Part of the spellbinding nature of virtuoso drum-playing is the energy that is built in the room and the almost super-human optics that impress audiences playing percussion with such precision and speed. Rather, Trio Chemirani use string instruments to complement the piece and thus keep the whole record fresh and engaging throughout. For my money, the opener and title-track is the best song on the album and is ironically the most string-heavy track, which most percussive groups might see as an insult.
However, that fact is really to their credit as they are able to let go of expectation to merely perform an exercise in show-boating percussive talent and rather use a more holistic approach to focus on their main goal of trying to let the music speak to all those whose ears it falls upon. That is not to say that on a sonic level there isn’t deep complexity to all of the music. The wide-range of percussive instruments too, from the traditional Persion zarb to the daf and even the hand drum, that are played at all different rhythms and tempo evoke a wide-range of feelings. Yet, much like their sufi forefathers would have intended, perhaps more than tapping into people’s emotions, what Trio Chemirani really succeed in is creating spiritual music. This primordial connection with soul through the beat of drum is what gives me hope that music can be a key tool in unifying human-kind at a time when there is so much division.