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Album Review

Galeet Darda Shti, 'The Naming'

September 13, 2010

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The New York-raised daughter of a family of prominent Iranian-Jewish musicians, Galeet Dardashti has chosen the High Holidays season to release her album of tributes to misunderstood heroines of biblical and Jewish folk stories: Michal, David’s wife, who wore men’s tefillin to pray; Hagar and Sarah; the Queen of Sheba; and others. With a gorgeous voice that runs stately, mystical, or conversational at will, but also a PhD in anthropology earned studying Sephardic and Israeli Arab music traditions, Dardashti draws on rhythm and vocal technique from Iran to Morocco. The band, with a strong string section from Dardashti’s all-women group Divahn, plus hand percussions and electronics, creates an atmosphere that is lush but structured, avoiding the trance-folk caricatures that beset some modern Middle East roots projects. If there’s a false note, it might be when Dardashti breaks into English at the end of “Sheba,’’ a gesture that adds explanation but ruptures the mood. Mostly, though, “The Naming’’ — which is short, only seven songs — honors the women who inspired it with an elegance that’s both seductive and thoughtful. (Out now)

SIDDHARTHA MITTER

ESSENTIAL “Michal’’