Saffron – “Trembling”
Saffron passionately translate the words of Persian Sufi poet Rumi into music on their latest release, dawning, which is out on CD February 5th on Tames Records distributed by Palmetto. Katayoun Goudarzi, Shujaat Khan, Tim Ries, Kevin Hays and Abhiman Kaushal improvise over Indian classical and jazz styles to build a palette of sound for Rumi’s poetry to float like a breeze over sitar, saxophone, piano and tabla. Even though Rumi’s words have been around for hundreds of years, Saffron put a new twist on his writing by providing a musical backdrop that taps into traditional and contemporary Eastern and Western music. Goudarzi believes it’s important to bring this historic poetry into the 21st century.
“It makes sense to engage both East and West, to use both to express the poems. Unity and love are the most fundamental parts of Rumi’s poetry. We could, of course, use the same music that was considered Sufi music, forever and ever for another 800 years. But it’s a different world now, a new opportunity for interaction. And so long as we want to learn about each other, why not try to transcribe it in our own way?” – Katayoun Goudarzi
Goudarzi grew up with Rumi’s words in Iran. His words were on the radio and were commonly found in jokes and family stories. The art of poetry was everywhere; recited, written and sung. When she moved to the US, Rumi’s poetry stayed with her and inspired her to put his words to music. She met with Shujaat Khan, a seventh generation North Indian classical sitar player, and the pair found they shared a love for poetry. They brought in pianist and composer Kevin Hays, The Rolling Stones’ sax player Tim Ries and tabla player Abhiman Kaushal to round out the group.
With Khan’s sense of melody and improvisation and Goudarzi’s knowledge of Rumi and the Persian language, Rumi’s poetry comes to life. Goudarzi’s calm, delicate delivery lets the music do the talking, while Rumi’s words drift in and out of the instrumental improvisations. The music on dawning ranges from being sparse and light to being frantic with an edge, as you can hear on “Trembling” above. To get a sense of the group in action, check out a video of Saffron in concert below.