Sevara Nazarkhan,
Yol Bolsin
(Real World/Virgin, 2003)

Hailing from the mysterious land of Uzbekistan, Sevara Nazarkhan has come upon the world in a whirlwind. Unlike fellow Uzbek musical talents Yulduz Usmanova and Mokhira Asadova, Nazarkhan has stayed within her roots and tapped an ancient vein of sound that seldom graces us in this day and age.

Recorded in Radio Record Studios in Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital, Yol Bolsin is an eclectic, sincere set of Uzbek folk melodies and Sufi songs. At times ancient and spiritual, at other times folksy and comfortable. Yol Bolsin is a stark and compelling contrast to 99 percent of the popular music being made today; Nazarkhan is indeed a weaver of spells. Vocally speaking, she is a contrast of fire and ethereality. Not since Vas singer Azam Ali and possibly Norwegian Saami singer Marie Boine or Yungchen Lhamo burst onto the world scene has a voice been so captivating.

French Producer Hector Zazou blessed this record with a distinctly modern vision. Yol Bolsin is certainly not a Buddha Bar wannabe record, nor does it have any relation to the monotonous rhythms of any of the typical Asian underground records that have been released in recent years. Nazarkhan is accompanied by several very talented musicians of note, including legendary Sufi multi-instrumentalist Toir Kuziyev, who plays both the doutar lute and the tambour while giving free rein to Nazarkhan's otherworldly voice.

One listen and you'll see why Nazarkhan is a celebrated pop star in her homeland. She is classically trained as well, having studied music at the Tashkent State Conservatoire. She is also a gifted master in ancient maqams. With influences that range from Bjork, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Botir Zakirov to Sade and Youssou N'Dour, she is indeed a talent to be reckoned with in the years to come.

The music of Yol Bolsin with its hypnotic serpentine pulsation and Old World instrumentation is like an open window into the lost age of Bukhara and Samarkand; those long-lost mystical places along the Silk Road that beckoned travelers like Marco Polo to come and warm by the fire. I am hard pressed to find a more haunting and moving song than "Gazli" -- it stirs the soul immensely. If any of you have been lucky enough to see Nazarkhan's video for this song on World Link TV, you'll know what I mean: it is utterly mesmerizing.

- Rambles
written by Michael Lohr
published 25 September 2004

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