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This fall saw the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings release of Nowruz, the debut album from the Aga Khan Master Musicians (AKMM). Produced by Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music Theodore Levin, the recording is a collaboration between Smithsonian Folkways and the Aga Khan Music Programme (a program of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture), for which Levin is Senior Advisor. Hailing from West Asia, North Africa, Central Asia, and China, the six members of AKMM converge to play new music inspired by old traditions, inhabiting, as Levin's liner notes describe, "a space....in which East and West, present and past, and folk, jazz, and classical music both Western and non-Western nourish a strikingly original body of work." The lineup of master instrumentalists makes for an eclectic combination: Wu Man (pipa), Basel Rajoub (saxophone, dulcar, and doholla), Feras Charestan (qanun), Sirojiddin Juraev (dutar and tanbur), Jasser Haj Youssef (viola d'amore), and Abbos Kosimov (doira, chang qobuz, riq, and tar); the six are joined on this recording by Turkish doholla specialist Levent Yıldırım.
"The meridian lines" of AKKM's cosmopolitan musical explorations, writes Levin, "follow from a fundamental shared belief: that tradition can serve as an invaluable compass for an artistic search into new forms of creativity inspired but not constrained by the past."
Nowruz continues decades of collaboration between Levin and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, for which he produced the Grammy-nominated 10-volume Music of Central Asia anthology and the double CD The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan, as well as albums of field and studio recordings from Bosnia, Tuva, southern Siberia (Tuva and Sakha), Uzbekistan, the Soviet Union, the Bukharan Jewish diaspora in New York City, and Franco-American northern New England.
Nowruz is available for purchase on the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website, and you can find it on all music streaming platforms.