As ambassadors of the world to Austin, and ambassadors of Austin to the world, Atash has racked up a lot of experience in its nearly 18 year history (counting the group’s late 90s incarnation, The Gypsies). Called “Austin’s best-kept secret” by The Austin Chronicle as early as 1998, from the beginning the concoction of Middle Eastern strings, Indian percussion and flamenco harmonies behind the exquisitely passionate Persian vocals of Mohammad Firoozi generated a buzz in the Live Music Capital of the World, from the scenes created around the Gypsies’ 1998-9 weekly residency at the old Mercury Lounge (former White Rabbit) to the nine-year weekly run of Atash at the warehouse district’s Red Fez, spanning from 2002 to its closing in 2011. In its longevity, the group has enjoyed the talents of many great musicians within its ranks, from Gypsies co-founder Oliver Rajamani, and other Gypsies cohorts cellist John Pointer, and guitarists Joey de Lago and Glenn Rexach, to Atash-era flamenco guitarist Christian Fernandez (formerly frontman of the now-defunct, but wildly-popular-in-its-time Ta Mère) and Carolyn Wonderland drummer Rob Hooper. However, reincarnated as Atash in 2001, the group has been on a trajectory in which most members have stayed, and the group has only grown, from the original five-piece to a nine-piece that sometimes may sprawl to an even larger size with guest artist. In any case the group has evolved into an unbreakable brotherhood of musicians from different musical backgrounds, creeds, and cultures. In the last 13 years, Atash has traversed the globe, touring the United States, México, Spain, and Taiwan, multiple times and gained devoted fans at every turn, and it has also become the foremost representation of world music in its native Austin, earning the Austin Music Award for Best World Music Band every year since 2007.
The album took shape over three years, beginning with a songwriting retreat in January of 2010, in the lush two-story Victorian house which is Troubadour Studios in Lockhart, run by engineer Steven Collins (Deadman), where some tracks were recorded months later. However, facing several stalls due to the migrations of band members, scheduling snafus and financial challenges, most of the tracks were recorded in the more austere but fully decked-out studio The Still, in southwest Austin, with engineer Randall Squires, and was mastered at Tonehausin east Austin by Thomas van der Brook. The album represents a maturation of the quintet of Mohammad Firoozi, Jason McKenzie, Roberto Riggio, Dylan Jones, and John Mooney, heard on republic of love, and an even more collaborative approach than they have done previously, adding the collaborative talents of sitarist Indrajit Banerjee, west African percussionist Aboubacar Sylla, and the flamenco guitar of the band’s newest member, Cuban-born José Manuel Tejeda, along with that and the singing of outgoing guitarist Fernandez, who returned to his native southern France in the summer of 2010. Firoozi’s exquisite vocals and mystical poetry in Farsi proclaim the power of love, borrowing at times from great Sufi mystic poets of the early centuries of the last millenium, Rumi and Saadi, whose famous poem “Bani Adam,” (“Children of Adam“) used on the track “Sahara Spring,” rhapsodizes upon the brotherhood of all human beings. Textures of rock; Indian, Arabic and western classical music; reggae; qawwali; west African griot; and flamenco are interwoven seamlessly on this most recent, and best, effort to date by this powerhouse of world music in Austin.