Artist: Mohamed Assani: vocals and sitar; Accompanying musicians: Ustad Shahbaz Hussain: tabla; Curtis Andrews: mridangam, kanjira and mbira; Jeanse Le Doujet: bass
Creating culturally rich songs that effortlessly relate to an international audience is one of the most alluring ways to captivate music fans. Vancouver-based vocalist and sitar player, Mohamed Assani has captivingly done just that with the recent release of his Indian-Pakistani-electronic-fueled album, ‘Wayfinder.’ The ambient-world record is grounded in a sense of peace and freedom of spirit that the musician has become known for throughout his career.
Despite only featuring seven-tracks, ‘Wayfinder’ clocks in at over an hour, as the versatile Canadian musician creates an in-depth artistic statement on the intensely purposeful release. The new album boldly spans many genres and traditions, as the award-winning composer is known for being a proactive ambassador for rich musical tradition. In particular, he has brought the sitar to new audiences through innovative, genre-bending songs. Assani uses his instrument to bring his music in a completely fresh and unique direction on his latest original record that relentlessly pushes the frontiers of culture.
Using an alluring, modern sound, ‘Wayfinder’ thrives a range of stylistic genres, including classical Indian/Pakistani, North African and Middle Eastern influences, as well as jazz, funk, Western harmony, ambient and electronic. In addition to the electronic and acoustic beats, Assani also experiments with such instruments as tabla, mridangam, kanjira and mbira, and creates a versatile sound that’s similar to such fellow musicians as Anoushka Shankar, Nihtin Sawhney, Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain.
‘Wayfinder’ begins with the whimsical entry, ‘Awakening,’ on which Assani is aided by several backup musicians, including Ustad Shahbaz Hussain on the tabla, and Curtis Andrews on the mridangam. The gentle, introspective song features a deeply felt range of emotions in Assani’s bold playing of his sitar. The track features an immediate sense of inspiration and freedom of spirit throughout it’s eight-and-a-half minute runtime. The instrument’s initial intricate sound becomes more diverse and mesmerizing as the tune’s Middle Eastern melodies, which are interwoven with western influences, continue to grow.
Another intricate entry on the musician’s latest record is its third track, ‘Black Sugar,’ which thrives on his alluring ability to mix deep R&B grooves with seductive chords. Assani’s sitar perfectly balances the tune’s calming grooves with its rhythmic electronic instruments. The epic song, which clocks in at nine minutes and 20 seconds, has a natural ability to intensely build its emotional spiritual journey.
‘Black Sugar’ is followed by ‘Wayfinder’s atmospheric fourth entry, ‘Lullaby for Guli.’ The album’s quintessential whimsical track features a vivid sensuality in its serene, thoughtful ambiance. With its initial classical sound that gradually transforms into R&B inspired drums, the tune a vital addition to the more evocative and freeing nature of the contemporary Indian music genre. The beautiful new age ballad, which has a runtime of nine-and-a-half minutes, highlights Assani’s sentimental versatility as a musician, as he reflects on his life experiences in the epic tale of people’s ability to overcome pain in order to regain their hope.
The musician’s new record ends with the almost eight-and-a-half minute entry, ‘Transit,’ which powerfully uses a variety of electronic percussion to guide listeners on a journey. The song features a pulsating electronic beat that’s a surprising departure from some of Assani’s earlier tracks. But that shift proves his true versatility, as he determinedly supports modern Indian and Pakistani culture on a global scale.
Assani is both a musician who’s deeply rooted in the artistic traditions of South Asia and a one-of-a-kind international instrumental innovator. Throughout his extensive career, the celebrated composer has brought the sitar to new audiences through innovative collaborations that have expanded the boundaries of his instrument.
Besides his extensive recording and performing experience, Assani also holds a degree in Western Classical and World music from Dartington College of Arts in England, which makes him a true leader in his field. He has forged new paths for his music to develop and grow, while remaining committed to the rich depths and roots from which his tradition has emerged. His versatile musicality is beautifully highlighted throughout the diverse nature of ‘Wayfinder.’