Azadoota’s Bongo Train album is a compilation of original Azadoota songs recorded at different stages of the band’s evolution. Iraqi singer-songwriter Robin Zirwanda crafts lyrics in his native Assyrian, a language with origins in furthest antiquity. His music is clearly contemporary though, with infectious rhythms that will have you bopping away in your car no matter how bad the traffic is! Azadoota means Freedom.
Bongo Train – Azadoota
by Roger Holdsworth
The first glimpse of Azadoota’s CD left me a little puzzled and uncertain.
There was little information about the group on the cover, and the title Bongo Train … well …
What a delight however.
Robin Zirwanda is at the core of Azadoota.
Now resident in Sydney, he was born in Baghdad.
He’s singer and percussionist with the trio, and here he presents (apparently in a departure from his previous work) songs in Assyrian – up-beat, joyous, celebratory music from Arabic, Assyrian and Kurdish roots.
Yet your assumptions about what this music might sound like could be misleading, for Azadoota’s sounds also draw strongly on Brazilian and other Latin influences.
So imagine Iraqi music, with Latin percussion – samba and bellydance.
Dance is what it’s about too.
The occasional exhortation in English (really only on two tracks) that “This summer there will be music in the streets/we will be dancing to the beat” and “Celebration soon will be coming our way” appealed to me less, but I can guess that this would go over a treat live.
In whatever language, the relatively short and snappy songs are about having a good time, and they succeed admirably in enabling that to happen.
Azadoota – Assyrian for ‘freedom’ – is held together by driving and infectious rhythms, with electric and acoustic guitars, brass and keyboards that are somewhat reminiscent of Latin jazz-rock – “Santana goes to Baghdad” someone described them.
If you can’t get there yourself, these rhythms and vocals will take you to some interesting places – and a lot more safely.