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Abbass Mehrpouya

Soul Raga

(Pharaway; US: 29 Jan 2013; UK: 18 Feb 2013)

Looking at the title and that downward serious gaze on the cover, I thought this compilation was going to be gently spiritual-soulful but that expectation died a complete death around the time the brass in the 11-minute funk jam started imitating elephants. So that was track three. Then there was the cha-cha-cha later on, and the bit where we went Persian-Indian-Mexican and the development of respect for Abbass Mehrpouya who was overall just killing it with his compositions. Different kind of soul. OK. Mehrpouya was an urbane Iranian, ran a gallery in Tehran, played several instruments, sang—a smooth empathetic voice—and obviously paid attention to music from abroad, mainly the Europeanised part, since his idea of Chinese music seems to have been filtered through American or British variations. Died in 1993, this album covers the years 1968 - 1976, “several 45s and his sole LP,” stopping with the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Angela Sawyer brings up the name of a classic Bollywood song in the liner notes and Bollywood is a slightly useful comparison, not only because of Mehrpouya’s sitar and his respect for Indian music, but because he has the Bollywood knack of winning you over to a song by going that extra step to the edge of too-much so that the whole thing acquires a kind of sincerity. Not just borrowing from Latin American music, for example, but shouting “¡Olé!” on top of it. Or the elephants in track three. The guileless enthusiasm of that.

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