Cyminology: Saburi (ECM 2164)



Cymin Samawatie vocals
Benedikt Jahnel piano
Ralf Schwarz double-bass
Ketan Bhatti drums, percussion
Recorded January 2010 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Following their 2009 ECM debut As Ney, singer Cymin Samawatie, pianist Benedikt Jahnel, bassist Ralf Schwarz, and drummer Ketan Bhatti tessellate their heritages once again in Oslo’s Rainbow Studio. As Cyminology they thicken the stem sprouted on that first outing, growing new offshoots along the way. From poetry of the past, Samawatie turns her attention to the tectonic plates of allegiance that define our political world in the here and now, using only self-penned words to express her visions of conflict from afar. Yet rather than engage in fruitless proselytizing, the album forges its own continent. Without borders.

The smoothness achieved by this enmeshed quartet is subtly effusive and affecting. Painting with colors imported directly from nature, Samawatie’s fluted vocals shift through Jahnel’s arpeggios in “Sibaai” as would an eel through seaweed, thus starting out the disc with a feeling of current. Jahnel’s contributions are indeed inspiring at every turn. Be they the exquisite harmonies of the title track or the Beethovenian interiorities of “Hedije” (for indeed, the album feels like a chain of unwritten Moonlight Sonatas), he turns water into crystal with every stroke. The same goes for Schwarz and Bhatti, who in the song “Shakibaai” weave a carpet so plush as to shield Samawatie’s barefooted cantoring from the magma below.

As ever, her voice spreads from center to periphery, bleeding through the fever dream of “As maa” and on through the diagrams of “Nemibinam,” in which she reveals a hidden dance. Despite Samawatie’s penchant for textual color, through which she impedes clarity of expression through the mystery of meaning, the wordless singing of “Norma” most forthrightly expresses her art. Named for Norma Winstone, it is truly something special. What’s more, her voice need not even be there to affect us, as shown by the concluding “Hawaa.”

That the album’s title means “patience” is an afterthought to what is already obvious. That such fullness can let the wind through without impediment is testament enough to the group’s meticulousness. Like a pinwheel activated by breath of slumber, its turns in self-hypnosis, that it might see the light of day whenever the skies grow dark.

(To hear samples of Saburi, click here.)

2 thoughts on “Cyminology: Saburi (ECM 2164)

  1. Great review of an underrated group. One point you may want to clarify — As Ney was their ECM debut, prior to which they released two (also-excellent) albums on the Doublemoon label: Per Se (2005) and Bemun (2007). Love the blog, keep up the good work!

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