Sussan Deyhim – Madman of God: Divine Love Songs of the Persian Sufi Masters (Crammed Discs, 2000)

An Iranian living in New York City, Sussan Deyhim has been kicking around the barriers between traditional Persian music, electronic music and avant-garde for over twenty years. She first made the scene with Richard Horowitz on the groundbreaking electro-Persian album Azax/Attra: Desert Equations. Between that and forming a band called Majoun with Horowitz, she has collaborated with Peter Gabriel, Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble and Adrian Sherwood. Madman Of God is her first solo effort, and it’s a stunner. It’s a collection of classic melodies taken from the Persian repertoire, which were which were composed around the poetry of RĂ»mi, Saadi, Djami and other Sufi writers from the 11th to the 19th centuries.

“These pieces are as well-known by my grandparents as they are by my own generation,” wrote Deyhim in the liner notes, “and they represent the torch songs of classical Persian music.” More than that, she offers imaginative arrangements that go beyond tradition, delivered expertly by an all-star band that includes Iranian classical Setar musician Reza Derakhshani, Steve Reich collaborator Glen Velez on percussion, jazz bassist and former John Coltrane colleague Reggie Workman and Richard Horowitz. Amazingly, while the album sounds like it was altered with electronics, it’s entirely acoustic, aside from a few multi-tracked vocals. It’s full of sonic, instrumental and vocal tricks, such as the Arabic scatting on “Negara (Mesmerized Mirror)” that was first introduced to the mainstream by Sheila Chandra. Deyhim, Chandra and Natacha Atlas are the few women adventurous enough to push ancient music through to future frontiers. Most importantly, while the sacred songs are stately and mesmerizing, suggestive of the ultimate in love, pain, compassion, wisdom and the Sufi gaze, it’s also fun! These songs are meant for museums. They are intended to evoke the vibration that is the essence of the Sufi way, of transcendence and cosmic space. In other words, Madman Of God is Persian mash music, a modern Sufi Let’s Get It On. So get with your sweetie, break out the candles and incense, set the CD player on repeat and get metaphysical.

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