When we asked Mariam Rezaei to submit a Takuroku release late in 2020 she responded by saying “I want to do something, but I want to make sure it's something special”. Almost a year later Mariam decided to team up with vocalist Alya Al-Sultani, presenting a first time duo on turntable and voice, sending lightning fast sonorisations bouncing off the walls of OTO.
Mariam and Alya come from different but overlapping disciplines. After growing up as a classically trained pianist, Mariam has built a reputation over time as a prolific turntablist, DJ and improvisor, never shying away from interdisciplinary and experimental projects. Alya meanwhile is a British-Iraqi soprano, but has spent the last few years integrating improvisational techniques, microtonal ideas and Eastern influences in her music. Together their dexterous lungs and nimble fingers birth forms that dance in and out of each other: shifting, soaring, dipping, diving, but never sitting still.
Mariam takes Alya’s vocals as content to throw back into the mix, forming multiple layers of chops and edits that ricochet back and forth. Alya’s vocals move between tender refrains, textural flurries and righteous bursts of operatic expression, meeting Mariam digital fx, textural drones and sonic swells in ecstatic symbiosis.
Alya’s repeated aphorism “I want you, female,” throughout the start of the set spells it out. This is music about desire and liberation: fiery, sonically rambunctious and forever reaching for new heights.
Alya Al-Sultani - voice
Mariam Rezaei - turntables
Recorded in Cafe OTO by Shaun Crook on the 30th of June, 2021
Mixed & mastered by Oliver Barrett
1 - 'SISTER' [23:48]
Alya Al-Sultani is a vocalist and composer based in London, UK. Her first musical experiences were Iraqi folk songs sung by her great grandmother and radio broadcasts of Um Kolthum, Abdel-Halim and Fairouz which she listened to with her family while drinking sweet black tea infused with cardamom. After leaving Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, her family settled in Tottenham, North London where she began to discover the incredible new sounds of the 80s and music from the Caribbean.
Her musical education was entirely classically-focussed, on piano and voice. She learned the importance of technique, tradition, theory, respecting fellow musicians and respecting the music. But she did not learn freedom and it is this she has sought for the last decade. The pursuit of freedom in music is driven by her aesthetic, her immigrant experience and her Eastern feminism.
Apart from working on her own projects, Alya enjoys debuting new music for contemporary composers and experimenting with opera, including the integration of improvisation techniques, microtonal ideas and Eastern influences.
Mariam Rezaei is a multi-award winning composer, turntablist and performer. She previously led experimental arts project TOPH, TUSK FRINGE and TUSK NORTH, and in November 2022, received the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards For Artists in recognition of her contribution to music composition. Her music has recently been described as ‘genuinely ground-breaking’ (London Jazz News 2022) and ‘high-velocity sonic surrealism’ (4* The Guardian 2022). Recent releases include ‘BOWN’ on Heat Crimes, 'SADTITZZ' and ‘SKEEN'. Recent performances include Turntable Trio with Evicshen and Maria Chávez at Counterflows/ REWIRE 2023, and as soloist and co-composer of ‘6 Scenes for Turntables and Orchestra’ with Matt Shlomowitz for ICTUS/Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, for the final concert at IM Darmstadt 2023.
Recent collaborations include Joan La Barbara, Evicshen, Maria Chavez, Maggie Nicols, Black Top (Pat Thomas & Orphy Robinson), Lasse Marhaug, Rhodri Davies, Angharad Davies, Alya Al Sultani, Mette Rasmussen, Audrey Chen, Elaine Mitchener, Will Guthrie, Lukas Koenig, Julien Deprez, Kenosist, Gwilly Edmondez and Elvin Brandhi.
Upcoming performances include ‘Azadi/Freedom’ with London Sinfonietta at HCMF 2023; Tehran Contemporary Sound, Berlin; Another Sky, London; 6 Scenes for Turntables & Orchestra with Brussels Philharmonic/ICTUS Ensemble, Brussels, Antwerp & Glasgow; GIOFest 2023, Glasgow; Taipei Biennial 2023, Taiwan.