As Ney


The melody and texture of the Persian language exerts a subtle hold on the composing and improvising of the Berlin-based Cyminology quartet, heard here on its ECM debut Bandleader Cymin Samawatie, charismatic German-Iranian vocalist, sings her own Farsi lyrics as well as poetry of Sufi masters Rumi and Hafez, and 20th century verse of Forough Farrokhzäd. “As Ney”, an album titled after Rumi’s “Song of the Reed-Flute”, is quietly compelling, proposing a chamber jazz from new and fresh perspectives. An unusual and highly attractive ‘intercultural’ recording whose sensitive musicianship draws the listener in.

Featured Artists Recorded

April-May 2008, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1As Ney
    (Cymin Samawatie, Rumi)
  • 2Niyaayesh
    (Benedikt Jahnel, Cymin Samawatie)
  • 3Kalaam - Dassthaa - Delbasstegi
    (Benedikt Jahnel, Cymin Samawatie, Ketan Bhatti, Ralf Schwarz)
  • 4Sendegi
    (Cymin Samawatie)
  • 5Por se ssedaa
    (Cymin Samawatie, Hafiz)
  • 6Naagofte
    (Benedikt Jahnel, Forough Farrokhzaad)
  • 7As Ssafar
    (Cymin Samawatie)
  • 8Ashkhaa
    (Cymin Samawatie)
Cymin Samawatie delivers the lyrics of this album in Farsi, believing that the sound of the Persian language contributes much to the subtle yet dynamic, softly pulsating nature of the music… I’m not the only jazz enthusiast who has sensed parallels between the spirit of jazz and Sufism – the inner, poetic and musical and potentially pancultural side of Islam… Bhatti supplies laid-back rhythm, textural nuance and some beautifully orchestrated transitional passages: his refined sensitivity to sound distinguishes many another moment in this (mostly) gently affecting excursion into Sufi-touched but definitely contemporary, cross-cultural chamber jazz.
Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal
Samawatie has a pure, direct vocal style, unadorned yet expressive, and Jahnel’s choices as accompanist and soloist are spare and telling. The quartet, despite its ethnic diversity, delivers remarkably unified performances even when stretching out.
Ray Comiskey, Irish Times
In the music of the intriguing world-jazz project known as Cyminology, contemplative jazz and chamber-esque qualities converge in a distinctive admix of influences, from Persian, European, American and even residual Brazilian musical languages. … For her bittersweet melodic ruminations, Samawatie draws on ancient texts of Rumi and Hafiz, as well as the 20th-century Iranian poet-filmmaker Forough Farrokhzaad, wending her vocal parts through the alternately open and intricate compositional designs of the music.
Josef Woodard, JazzTimes
Eine fremde, orientalische Sprache: Persisch. Eine warme Frauenstimme, die den Rhythmus dieser Sprache aufnimmt und ihre Melodie in sanfte Bögen von einem ganz besonderen Reiz formt. Dazu eine Band, die im klassischen Jazz-Setting mit Schlagzeug, Kontrabass und Flügel die Stimmung des Gesanges aufgreift, ihn sanft stützt, umspielt und die fremdartigen Takte in kleine, flirrende Muster überführt. Ost und West, Alt und Neu, Kunstlied und aktueller Jazz sind die Pole.
Stefan Hentz, Die Zeit
Die Triebfeder für Cymin Samawaties Musik ist altpersische Lyrik… In ihren Kompositionen gelingt es ihr, diese alten Texte mit ihrer oft ungeraden Metrik vollkommen natürlich und auf verzaubernde Weise in eine Klaviertriomusik zu integrieren, die viel mit der neuen Innerlichkeit zu tun hat… Nichts wirkt exotisch aufgesetzt; die klare und doch warm tönende Stimme dient dem Wort und der Musik gleichermaßen.
Thomas Fitterling, Rondo
Cymin und ihre Band Cyminology wagen einen abenteuerlichen Spagat. Sie bringen uralte persische Lyrik mit kammermusikalischem Jazz zusammen, versöhnen die Geschichten aus 1001 Nacht mit urbanem, großstädtischem Sound. Selbst Jazzikonen wie Herbie Hancock und George Benson, Bobby McFerrin oder Dianne Reeves kriegen große Ohren, wenn sie das hören.
Hermann Weiß, Welt am Sonntag
Bezaubernd inszenierter, reifer Kammer-Jazz auf Welt-Niveau als traumhaftes Hörvergnügen.
Sven Thielmann, Stereoplay
Das ECM-Debüt der Berliner Brückenbauer zwischen Orient und Okzident von Cyminology hat es in sich. Eine Musik, die den Hörer fordert, um diesen schon bald mit ihrer feinen Balance aus minimalistisch-kühnem kammermusikalischen Jazz, kunstvoll-modulierender Melodik und der euphonischen Sinnfüller persischer Dichtung zu belohnen. Reich zu belohnen, muss man sagen, denn es ist eine überaus vielschichtige Klangwelt, die Cyminology seit sechs Jahren erforschen.
Alessandro Topa, Jazzthetik

“As Ney” is the ECM debut of an unique band. The subtle yet dynamic, softly-pulsating music of Cyminology (formed 2002) takes its cue from the sound of the Persian language. “This was the turning point for us,” says singer Cymin Samawatie. “When I began singing in Farsi, the music of the group started to become unified. There are still elements from different kinds of music” – including chamber jazz, open improvisation, modern composition, art songs, minimalism, even a distant hint of bossa – “but once we brought in the Persian poetry, it seemed to bring everything together. Farsi is a soft language and has a unique melody in itself, it already gives you a sense of direction. And the changing meters of the poetry influence the rhythm and the time signatures.”

Cymin Samawatie writes most of the band’s music, as well as song lyrics which, in the tradition of Persian verse, can be interpreted on several levels: are these love poems or do they hint at wider, spiritual, concerns? And she looks also at words from masters of the tradition including, on this recording, Rumi (1207-73) and Hafiz (c.1325-1389). Cymin incorporates, too, verse of Forough Farrokhzaad (1935-67), Iranian modernist poet and film director, a strong feminine voice, whose cry for personal freedom takes on a particular poignancy in the light of political developments of the last 30 years. Cymin would sooner celebrate positive aspects of Persian culture than dwell on present-day restrictions, but her very profession, lead singer of a band, is not one currently available to Iranian women in their homeland.

Born to Iranian parents in Braunschweig in 1976, Cymin was raised bilingually and bi-culturally, spending summers in Iran. In Germany, as a teenager, she raced through musical idioms in search of a mode of expression. At 13 she led a choir, at 17 had an acoustic-grunge duo with Ralf Schwarz on guitar, singing self-penned songs of alienation. She studied classical music in Hannover, specializing in percussion and piano, and jazz in Berlin where, at the Hochschule der Künste, her teachers included American jazz veterans David Friedman and Jerry Granelli. She credits Granelli for encouraging her to improvise with Persian poetry, and to set it to ‘non-traditional’ music.

It’s not a coincidence that Samawatie begins the album with a setting of Jalaluddin Rumi’s “Song of the Reed-Flute”, from the compendious “Masnavi”: “Listen to the song of the reed-flute / Lamenting its banishment from its home / ‘Ever since they tore me from my reed bed / My plaintive notes have moved men and women to tears / I burst my breast, giving vent to sighs / To express the pangs of yearning / For everyone who is far from his home / Longs for the day he can return.” If Cyminology’s music is still, broadly, “contemporary jazz” – jazz experience being common to all members’ backgrounds – it also aspires to regions beyond it.