Local Wire


Outside the scope of rock and pop, "supergroups" are less heralded. Besides the acclaimed Masters of Persian Music, Arabic folk mergers remain sparse. Niyaz (NEE-az) easily slips into that category, drawing from a thousand years of Iranian and Indian influence and rebooting it with digital charges. Comprising former Vas vocalist Azam Ali, Axiom of Choice founder Loga Ramin Torkian, and producer Carmen Rizzo, the goal was to traverse a narrow bridge between classical cool and futuristic foray without compromising the integrity of either. Mission accomplished on the group's self-titled debut, as Ali's brilliant Urdu/Farsi poetry is laid bare with warm bass lines and reinvented dholak and tabla loops. Drawing from a catalogue of ancient scribes, Ali carefully crafts melodies from the works of Rumi, Sauda, Shad Azimabadi, and others. Torkian then punctuates them with lightweight rabab, saz and guitar viol lines, capped by Rizzo's tasteful production smarts. Rizzo, whose résumé includes hits by Seal, Khaled, Paul Oakenfold and Cirque du Soleil, has no trouble introducing ancient Persia to modern America. For Ali and Rizzo, this first step into the refined algorithms of computer life provides another rite of passage for them to canvas.