Sevara Nazarkhan Sen Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

A mixed bag from the Uzbekistan legend...

Martin Longley 2007

The issue of folkloric 'purity' is irrelevant here, because Sevara Nazarkhan is a self-confessed pop artist in her homeland of Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, with her reverb-drenched voice declaiming traditional Uzbek poetry and the sound of doutar and tanbur lutes gently tingling in the background, her songs must surely be viewed by outsiders as being at least partially exotic.

The release, by Real World, of Nazarkhan's UK debut Yol Bolsin in 2003 resulted in a tour with Peter Gabriel, appearances at the WOMAD festival and on Jools Holland's Later... programme. For this successor, Sevara called up Russian punky-electro producer Victor Sologub and the pair started laying down tracks in Tashkent. Subsequently, the results were tweaked (or possibly airbrushed) in Real World's own West Country studios, with Bruno Ellingham at the controls.

Who can say what went down between these two locations? Nazarkhan insists that this is her own undiluted product, but then why wasn't one producer sufficient? This is getting like Hollywood scriptwriting! In the end, the electronic elements of the songs sound quite unimaginative, set to the bland side of 1980s minimalism, where all the sounds are straight out of the pre-programmed bag. The advantage of this is the space that surrounds Sevara's epic vocals, and the exposure given to the swirling mist, gently chattering percussion and mud-plop electro-emissions that populate the soundstage.

She's deliberately teetering on the edge between accessibility and bland-out, and just about pulls off the challenge. On the second track, "Bu Sevgi", the lute phrases are answered by ringtone synth, and the slow-paced mood is set for most of the duration. The vibe could be described as soupy, with too little variation. Towards the end, "Kuigai" and "Ne Kechar" can boast a raunchier electro-palette, with the latter even picking up some well-needed speed.

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