Katayoun Goudarzi & Shujaat Khan – This Pale | Tolerance & Love
On a Friday afternoon, I plugged in my headphones to give This Pale my first listen, while attempting to code up a module at work. By the third track Tender, my code was entirely forgotten. I was quickly enthralled by the album. If you are looking for a soothing, soul-stirring, and poetic experience – look no further.
This Pale is a rich classical album composed by a culturally diverse group of talented musicians comprising Iranian American vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi, Grammy-nominated master sitar player Shujaat Khan, Iranian ney (flute) player Shaho Andalibi, and 5th-generation tabla player of the Thirakwa lineage Shariq Mustafa.
The album embarks on an ambitious project – to spread love and tolerance in today’s troubled times of steep cultural and societal uncertainties, and to spark constructive and collective conversations surrounding these topics. How better to do it than use Rumi’s age-old wisdom as inspiration?
While the first three tracks largely choose major key raagas with catchy tunes and upbeat instrumental arrangements, Sweetest changes the vibe almost instantaneously. Shujaat Khan and Shaho Andalibi start with an incredible alaap which sets a mood akin to a sudden thunderstorm brewing on an otherwise calm day. There is suddenly something darker that hangs in the air which takes the listener by welcomed surprise. The album ends with what is perhaps my favourite track – All I’ve Got. Close your eyes and let the music wash over you. It is meditative, slow, transcendental and quenches your restless mind with a sense of deep calm.
Katayoun Goudarzi is consistently excellent throughout the tracks. Her voice is sharp, deep and cuts through the sitar and table accompaniments without overpowering them. Her words display an unmistakable sense of quiet urgency, powerful yet soothing. Shujaat Khan and Shariq Mustafa take on different roles as the album progresses. They display a collaborative and playful relationship towards the end of Wild, building up to an explosive ending. While they provide a more supportive role to the strong vocals in One and Tender filling the interludes with beautiful compositions, the second half of Sweetest brings out the nuances and technical brilliance of both artists, as they complement each other perfectly. In All I’ve Got, both players give a carefully restrained performance to let the bhaav of the raaga shine through, raw and unfiltered.
All in all, This Pale achieves a rare, sublime harmony between the vocals and the instrumentals. It is well balanced and complete. On my fifth listen, it is still as fresh as the first time. The album takes you on a journey inwards and leaves you with a feeling of contentment. It achieves what it set out to do – Rumi’s words leave an imprint on your soul, hard to forget and harder to erase. Listen to it here –