This is just the merest sampling of the huge amount of music available east of NATO territory... I can hardly claim that this is a comprehensive, or even representative, sample of what's available. Nonetheless, these are some of the albums which have leapt out at me over the last few years -- hopefully you will find these records as striking as I have. And keep checking this site for more reviews-- it is sure to expand over time. This is the first page covering the letter "X"...
Min Xiao-Fen "Spring, River, Flower, Moon, Night" (Asphodel, 1997)
A technical tour-de-force by this master of the pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute. The material is hundreds of years old, and beautifully recorded -- not a string is plucked without being heard, not a note is muffled, and Min's mastery of the instrument is dazzling. I can only imagine what one of her recitals must be like!
Yamato Ensemble "Japanese Music By Michio Miyagi, Vol. 1" (Arc Music, 2007)
Elegant, stately Japanese instrumental music from early 20th Century composer Michio Miyagi, one of the best acknowledged masters of the koto, or Japanese zither. The ensemble plays traditional instruments such as the koto, shakuhachi flute, and the 17-string "bass koto" or jushichigen, which was invented by Miyagi himself, as well as a smidge of (rather shrill) vocals. The music sounds stereotypically "Japanese," that is, it is exactly what you would expect to hear in, say, a Hollywood film from the 1950s or '60s when a Japanese theme was introduced. This familiarity doesn't diminish it's beauty or power, though: these recordings are lovely and meditative, starting off with a perfect rendition of Migayi's most famous piece, "Haru No Imi," and working through a half dozen of his other numerous works. Two of the tracks are very long -- thirteen and sixteen minutes each -- contributing to the unhurried, lavish feel of the album. If you want some rich, contemplative music, this disc is a fine, rewarding set. Recommended.
Yeahwon "Yeahwon" (Artist Share, 2010)
(Produced by Sun Chung)
Yeahwon Shin is a Korean vocalist who got the Brazilian-music bug, and devoted herself to recording an entire album of bossa nova and MPB standards, sung in pretty convincing Portuguese, with guest performers that include Egberto Gismonti and Cyro Baptista. Yeahwon's voice is lovely, and her feel for the music is impressive... There is a fluidity that many great Brazilian singers have, an intangible "Brazilian-ness" that is almost impossible for outsiders to completely tap into, but she comes pretty darn close. Obviously a labor of love, this is an album that is sure to turn many ears... I'd love to hear her do some bossa nova with Korean lyrics as well!
Zarbang "Persian And Middle Eastern Percussion" (Arc Music, 2005)
A dazzling live performance, built around a dynamic percussive core, but with melodic embellishment from the Persian santur (a form of dulicmer, played here with amazing dexterity and fluidity) and the even more unusual sound of the Iranian bagpipes known as the ney-anban, which sounds a lot like the odd, primitive bagpipes used in Gallician folk music. The five-member Zarbang ensemble is made up of expatriate Iranian and Afghani virtuosi, living in various, far-flung European countries. Listening to this energetic, compelling concert album, it's clear that fans in Europe have a lot to be thankful for... If you like the Persian classical group, Ghazal, you might also appreciate this group's lively, less stuffy performance style -- there's plenty of authenicity, but also a lively, playful showmanship that should draw you in. Nice!
Zarbang "Call To Love" (Hermes Records, 2008)
Zarbang "Rengineh" (Mahoor Records, 2011)
Asian & Islamic Albums: >> Compilations
Asian Music Index
World Music Index