Press Clipping
Alkibar Junior; Sandaraa; Amira Medunjanin

The first question that occur when you hear Sandaraa is geographical. Is this a Middle Eastern band? South Asian? Balkan? A klezmer ensemble? The answer is "yes." It is Lahore-meets-Brooklyn in conception, a collaboration between Pakistani singer Zebunnisa Bangash and metro New York clarinet master Michael Winograd. The fiddler, guitarist, bass player, accordionist, and percussionist are also based in Brooklyn, though several of them have deep ethnic roots and none of them seem to be constrained by any particular national border when they pick up their instruments. Ms. Bangash is a marvel. We listen to her undulations, staccato cadences, and elides duel with Winograd's clarinet on a song like "Jegi Jegi" and hear klezmer strained through a world music filter. Nothing is hurried on their self-titled EP. There is the trance-meets-keening of "Mana Nele" clocking in at 7:20, and the trippy "Bibi Sanem Janem" at 5:40. The latter song is typical of how Sandaraa build compositions. It opens with a soulful clarinet solo and eases into swaying rhythms that explain why this ensemble's 2013 founding was partly underwritten by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. "Dilbrake Nazinin" is a particularly lovely piece that unfolds to guitarist Yoshie Fructer bending the strings as if he were wielding a sitar and he commands the first minute and a half before Bangash sings. She stays quiet and wistful until the 3:50 mark when the song leaps into higher gear–only to have Ms. Bangash settle it back to a more contemplative level. I call this the feather-hammer-feather effect. The EP's final track, "Haatera Taiyga" spotlights tin-pan-style percussion from Richie Barshay that frames several instrumental surges bordering on wildness–but there is always Bangash's voice that invokes an angel standing pacific in the middle of hot oil. Sandaraa often reminded me of a South Asian version of Pentangle. That's a good thing–a very good thing.