Ustad Saami ‘God Is Not a Terrorist’ LP/CD (Glitterbeat) 4/5

The fifth volume in the ‘Hidden Musics’ series and produced by Ian Brennan, devoted to world roots musicians, here is an album of devotional music from the Indian subcontinent which has both a contemporary and universal message. The origins of the music go back to the thirteenth century and are rooted in Karachi, the modern-day capital of the province of Sindh. Ustad Saaami is now a seventy-five year old polyglot, equally versatile in Farsi and Hindi as he is in Sanskrit. The music needs to be digested as a whole with pieces blending into one another and where the mind and soul of the listener are transported into an entirely different musical universe. That is achieved partly with the aid of a drone-like sounding instrument with chanted vocal harmonies, illustrated on the title track opener. What is important to bear in mind is that there is a logical development in the musical continuum and this the second number, ‘My Beloved Is On The Way. with tabla accompaniment, follows on directly from the first piece. On an evocative piece such as ‘Twilight’ – the sound of the drone is pervasive with wordless chants and tabla operating in unison and this captures that early morning feel when life is slowly starting up again. Added to the other instruments, the sound of the harmonium, a rough equivalent of the accordion, can be heard on ‘Hymn’, which is all too brief and the message self-evident. Three out of the six pieces on offer exceed the ten minute mark and this is the kind of music that has to be listened to in its entirety rather than sampled individually. Interestingly the surname of the singer Saami translates into English as ‘To Hear’. For those in a deeply contemplative mood, an ideal listening experience.

Tim Stenhouse