Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan (Disc 1)

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Hear the sound of musical influence travel down a thousand mile road.

For centuries, the Silk Road was the line of contact between China and the Middle East, traversing thousands of miles and myriad cultures, as well as the subject of myth. But not only spices and goods travelled its length; music did, too. These field recordings, all with piercing sonic clarity, show not only the similarities, but also the unique aspects of so many stops along the way. There's the stunning playing on "Balbyraun," and "Kharagay" is a beautiful song underpinned by unearthly Tuvan folk singing. To Western ears there's a deliciously alien feel to it all, but the carefully chosen tracks are still easy to listen to and appreciate, be they on the jew's harp or the dutar lute of Tazikstan's Sirajoddin Juraev. Whether consciously or not, each piece evokes the caravan rhythms of horses and camels across the endless steppes. This is an introduction to a very different world of powerful music.