24 May 2023 / Wednesday / 19:00
Patio at the Centre for Culture in Lublin, Peowiaków 12 Street
LOVE IN EXILE / Polish premiere
Arooj AFTAB – vocals
Vijay IYER – piano, electronics
Shahzad ISMAILY – bass, Moog synthesizer
Love In Exile asks you to step inside its sense of time, to stretch out alongside these delightful and unhurriedly unfolding songs.
Profound impact is achieved with minimal instrumentation: Vijay Iyer on pianos and electronics, Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Moog synth, and Arooj Aftab’s exquisite Urdu vocals. Subtle musical interrelationships build into moments of deeply felt drama. Shimmering keyboard melodies and stirring vocals, earthy basslines, and hypnotic drones: together they create an album of stunning gravitas and beauty. Love In Exile was recorded live in a New York City studio with minimal editing, and each listen reveals distinct aspects of this soundworld, sure as it will activate new feelings inside you.
Genre categories come after the fact. This album is startlingly present and emotionally open. Many listeners will find it easier to remember how each song made them feel and what each song did to their sense of attention rather than specific melodies. This is music as a meeting ground and a way of being alive to the world. All the intimacies and deep trust that we understand by the word love combine with all the strangeness and adaptability of exile. The outsiders stay open.
The trio’s work is graceful in the common sense: elegance and emotion accompany each movement here. Yet it also manifests the deeper, spiritual sense of grace: a beauty that is generous, free, and unexpected, tapped into a higher power, which it translates and extends. By creating in real time, without any prior preparations, the three musicians make a collective moment for both themselves and the audience. Remembering their first show, Aftab says, “Vijay and Shahzad were so locked in to each other, and it was unclear whether they were doing what I was doing or I was doing what they were doing. We were like a school of fish.” Sunlight dappled through deep water, fluid motions that dissolve individual boundaries and amplify communal energy. Ismaily calls it “a relaxing toward what is.” Love In Exile is the power of music, how it moves us and invites us to love.
This project is so dear to me. Making music with Arooj and Shahzad is nothing less than an out-of-body experience. Even though I’m right there in it, I find myself witnessing the music as if from above. I’m weirdly in awe of our unhurried, mysterious creations; they seem to arrive fully formed from somewhere else. I can’t wait for everyone to hear, feel, and live with this record.
– Vijay Iyer
Our music is a process. This fragment of “To Remain / To Return” reveals not just the melody but the birth of a song. I hear Shahzad and myself establishing these haunted cycles, then slowly and delicately transforming them, as Arooj glides across like a dark moon.
– Vijay Iyer
Arooj AFTAB – Vijay IYER – Shahzad ISMAILY
Backstage after their 2018 debut show in their adopted hometown of New York City, Shahzad Ismaily asked Arooj Aftab and Vijay Iyer to huddle together and reflect on what had just occurred. “We felt it from the first moment,” remembers Iyer. “We were mystified and almost silent and said: I don’t know what just happened. But we should do that again.” They hadn’t prepared material in advance; the potent chemistry surprised even these seasoned collaborators. A shared focus on collective real-time creation allowed them to weave the bass, piano, and vocals into a breathtakingly unified sound. This was music in the moment. Words couldn’t define it, but the audience felt it, and joined the emotional journey. Staying open to spontaneous co-creation became the band’s defining approach in the half dozen shows they played before recording their debut album.
Individually, their accolades are substantial – vocalist Arooj Aftab, the first Pakistani to win a Grammy, wows audiences worldwide with her mesmerizing live shows; MacArthur genius and Grammy nominee Vijay Iyer is one of today’s most influential pianists; multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily’s sensitivity and technical acumen has made him a legend among musicians like the late Lou Reed for whom he was a session player. Yet the marvel here is how ego disappears as the three players merge to create a singular, gorgeous sound.
One key factor is how Aftab employs her otherworldly voice as another instrument in the ensemble. “I’m mostly using the words to get the sound out,” she says. “I’m not thinking about telling a story.” The voice-as-wind-instrument gels with the synth/keys combination of Iyer and Ismaily that flow together like sunlight and shadow.
More broadly, by trusting in real-time creation – and each other – the band is able to cross-pollinate spontaneity with the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime in music. As Ismaily puts it, “I feel like we’re subtly cueing listeners to say, Live like this.”
Love In Exile. Three world-class musicians meet in New York City to forge a singular voice that takes their distinct backgrounds and vast histories of collaboration as a starting point. From there they explore one-of-a-kind performances defined by a sense of timeless beauty and sudden surprise alike.
Centre for Intercultural Creative Initiatives CROSSROADS
Tel: + 48 (81) 466 61 67
Fax: +48 81 466 61 64
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