Album review: Kevin Seddiki and Bijan Chemirani: Imaginarium (2013)

Kevin Seddiki and Bijan ChemiraniYou may well be captivated by a few words on the sleeve notes of the album Imaginarium by Kevin Seddiki and Bijan Chemirani:

“Kevin Seddiki and Bijan Chemirani may not share the same parents, but they belong to the same family of roaming musicians, with no fixed abode, who have cast off those things that tie us down to one place.  Always looking to connect with others, they know that when the time comes to leave one another, they will always meet up again.”

You will instantly connect with this beautiful album by guitarist Kevin Seddiki and percussionist Bijan Chemirani.  These are troubadours with pedigree.  Seddiki has played with Al di Meola, bandoneonist Dinu Saluzzi and won the prestigious European Guitar Award in Dresden in 2009.  Chemirani comes from a family of outstanding percussionists and singers from Iran (who settled in France in the 1960s).  They have worked together since 2007, starting with a project called Oneira (a dream) in which each artist combined tradition with their own backgrounds and travels.

So perhaps it was inevitable that this new project would build on that experience –  the title Imaginarium gives you a clue – here are exotic places, sunlit coasts, romantic train journeys, planets, tragic operas. You are free to roam in your mind, transported by the most delicate sounds and rhythms that are half familiar if you have ever travelled in North Africa,  the Middle East or West Africa. Here are stringed and percussion instruments with wonderful names like zarb, udu, daff and saz and equally gorgeously heady sounds and trance-like rhythms which rise, fall and move with the sinuous grace of a dancer.  Their shared background in classical music and open minded embrace of other traditions, gently mixed with some subtle electronics,  makes for a rich combination –  like a persian rug or medieval tapestry. They deserve to be better known in the UK for their supreme artistry on interesting instruments, their glorious melodies and the sheer joy they exhibit in their performance – it is captivating and absorbing.

This is a deeply satisfying, dazzling and quite magical experience, and not just for dreaming.  You will want to go travelling…

  •  Kevin Seddiki, classical, folk and 12 string guitars, zarb and percussion
  • Bijan Chemirani, zarb, udu, daff, saz and other percussion
  • Kevin Seddiki
  • Bijan Chemirani


Album review: Phronesis: Life to Everything (released April 2014)

PhronesisIs it unorthodox to start a review with an appreciation of the recording quality? Yet without the technical skills of Matt Robertson and the sheer genius of the mixing by August Wanngren, we’d not have this album. Without those engineers, the energy, the passion and the sheer life-grabbing urgency that always characterises live performances by Phronesis, only a few hundred people would have experienced this extraordinary trio live, in the round, at The Cockpit in November 2013.

So we have the best of both worlds in this wonderful album – Life to Everything  – the sheer joy and expansiveness of live performance fused with recording-studio sound.   Of course, if you were not there you would not know that Anton often plays with cutlery, that Ivo sits so quietly at the piano, you think he is asleep, and that Jasper moves with his bass like a dancing partner.  And the result of these things is that unmistakable Phronesis sound!   As the audience we responded with whistles, whoops and gasps and that is what you will do at home, you will feel you are there.   The bustle, the clatter, the dancing-down-the-street feel of Anton’s compositions such as Herne Hill  is balanced by the ethereal, symphonic beauty of those of Ivo where he takes us into space and deserts, and explores the unspoken strength of deep friendship in Phraternal,  the life-changing experience (for him and us) that is called Phronesis.  And Jasper’s strong, instantly hummable tunes provide the sinew that runs through it, his bass playing is so delicate and responsive it drives the Phronesis machine as if it were a high-powered car  – which it is.

Phronesis’ fifth album, Life to Everything is quite simply one of the best albums you will hear this year! And their best!


Available here from Edition Records.

Mary James 6 April 2014