I Will Not Be Sad In This World / Moon Shines At Night

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Released 16 June. Pre-order from Bleep, Burning Shed or Amazon

 

This is a combined reissue of Djivan’s debut solo album I Will Not Be Sad In This World (originally
released in the Soviet Union in 1983) and Moon Shines At Night from 1993, recorded with infinite
guitarist Michael Brook.

For many outside of Russia and Armenia, the plaintive, haunting tones of Djivan Gasparyan’s duduk
were first experienced as Russell Crowe gently brushes his fingers through a wheat field in The
Gladiator and on Peter Gabriel’s seminal soundtrack to Martin Scorcese’s controversial film The Last
Temptation Of Christ.

However international notoriety must surely be down to Brian Eno, who first heard him perform in
Moscow in 1988 and quickly tracked down his 1983 album I Will Not be Sad In This World on Russia’s
state owned record label Melodiya. He was quoted at the time as saying that the album was
“without doubt one of the most beautiful and soulful recordings I have ever heard”, and determined
to release it internationally via his own Opal/Land Records imprint. His wish was realised in 1989
when the album was rereleased to great critical acclaim. Fittingly Djivan dedicated it to the victims
and survivors of the devastating earthquake that had struck Armenia on the 7th of December, 1988.

Brian May, the Queen guitarist who has worked on several occasions with Djivan, describes the
duduk thus: “it’s a small wooden instrument which looks not dissimilar to an English recorder, played
with a wooden reed mouthpiece, and sounding uncannily like a human voice when played by an
expert.” This album focusses directly on his mastery of it, backed by fellow duduk player Vachagan
Avakian who plays a single note as a drone or bass note behind Gasparyan’s weaving melodic
textures. It’s a sparse affair, but all the more beautiful for it. If ever an album could transport you to
the dry, mountainous landscape of Armenia, then this is it. The songs meld seamlessly into one
another, gently casting their spells and possibly touching your soul in the process. It’s really no
wonder that numerous hollywood directors have used Gasparyan’s music on their soundtracks, or
that Peter Gabriel once gushed that “Djivan’s music touches my heart, with its sorrow so tender and
bright, and his feelings so generous and heartfelt.”

Such was the success of the first release, that Eno determined to bring Djivan over to London to
record the follow-up. This time they brought in acclaimed Canadian producer, guitarist, and
frequent Eno collaborator Michael Brook to lend his ear and expertise. “They wanted to record
a new one and we did it in three hours,” he said later in an interview. “It was quite amazing,
Djivan and his troupe (again he recorded with damkash player Vachagan Avakian plus E.
Oganesyan and Levon Arshukuna) said “is that enough? Have we done an album’s worth of
music yet? We did it at a church in London (The Church Studios in North London) and it was all
to two-track; pretty much a live record. I think it was the first time he’d sung on a record
available in the west, and he’s a really good singer.”

The beauty of Brook’s production is that he doesn’t add much at all. He basically provides the
right setting for the acoustics and lets them play. The majority, like the previous album, are
instrumentals, with the ten-minute opus “Apricot Tree” a particular standout in terms the
desert-bound imagery it conjures up.

However the main difference between the two albums are the tracks “7th December 1988”
and “Mother Of Mine” in which he sings for the very first time on a western recording. The first
is an obvious reference to the Armenian earthquake. His voice is surprising in both its clarity
and pitch. You’re left wondering why he isn’t better known as a singer, because his voice has a
remarkable quality, and accompanied by a solitary damkash its effect is profoundly moving. It’s
fitting that he finishes off the album with “Mother Of Mine”. Once again less is more when he
adds his vocals. The drone has little more to do than provide a backdrop for his wonderfully
melancholy musings. His voice provides all the movement of the track.

At the time of release in September 1993, the Independent commented that it was “perfect
music for an imperfect world”, whilst Mojo went further in stating that it was “possibly one of
the most beautiful records ever made”. It’s hard to disagree with either sentiment, and it has
been said that both this and I Will Not Be Sad In This World are the definitive releases of
Djivan’s long and illustrious career.

Phil Meadeley

Tracklisting

CD 1 – I WILL NOT BE SAD IN THIS WORLD:

1 A Cool Wind Is Blowing
2 Brother Hunter
3 Look Here, My Dear
4 I Will Not Be Sad In This World
5 Little Flower Garden
6 Your Strong Mind
7 The Ploughman
8 Dle Yaman

CD 2 – MOON SHINES AT NIGHT:

1 Lovely Spring
2 Sayat Nova
3 7th December 1988
4 Don’t Make Me Cry
5 You Have To Come Back To Me
6 Tonight
7 They Took My Love Away
8 Moon Shines At Night
9 Apricot Tree
10 Mother Of Mine

 

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