Reviewed by Belinda Acosta, Fri., Aug. 1, 2003
AtashRepublic of Love (Ars Mundi) "We have fallen to a place where everything is music," (Rumi, 13th century). Recent world events may have inspired Republic of Love, but as the quote from the Sufi mystic suggests, when war disrupts the world, thank goodness it's music that emerges from the ruins. And what glorious music it is on the sensational debut from Austin-based world-music masters Atash ("fire" in Farsi). Where to begin? With curvaceous Indian-Middle Eastern melodies that serve as the group's foundation? Addictive percussive rhythms? The delightfully seamless infusion of Western jazz, rock, and classical music traditions, or Mohammad Firoozi's captivating vocals? And don't forget the lyrics. Sung in Farsi (translated into English in the liner notes), they are lyrical love poems to the world: "I read the books of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, slept beneath the tree of Buddha, but still did not find answers. When Love came to rule me, then I became a believer." Profoundly spiritual lyrics and exceptional musicianship sends listeners into a swoon rivaling Neruda. Though singing in Farsi, Firoozi's voice is understandable in any language. Having been trained as a boy to sing azzaan, the Muslim call to prayer, Firoozi's richly seasoned voice rises from tenderness to shimmering ecstasy. Together with accomplished musicians Roberto Riggio, Dylan Jones, John Moon, Jason McKenzie, and Alseny Sylla on violin, viola, tamboura, upright bass, djembe, and percussive instruments from East and West, Republic of Love spirits listeners away to a place where music is bread for the soul.