Album Review of
Our Garden Is Alone

Written by Joe Ross
May 11, 2022 - 10:05am EDT
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The haunting, new age sound of Marjan Vehadat’s Our Garden is Alone has taken it to the top ten on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 World Album Chart. The sublime album features Marjan’s defining voice of breathtaking ability that emphasizes intensity, emotion, fluidity and vitality.  

Born in Iran, Marjan lived and studied in Europe before returning to Iran. However, as a professional singer who was only allowed to sing to female audiences, she decided that a move to Sacramento was best for her career. Collaborating with Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, who brings his soft, introspective personality to the arrangements, they team with Jo Berger Myhre (bass), Kennet Ekornes (percussion), Pasha Hanjani (ney) and Shervin Mohajer (kamancheh) to trek an enchanting musical path of sorrow, nostalgia, hope and optimism.

Opening with “Leyli’s Garden,” Marjan vocalizes an aesthetic, atmospheric tribute to her mother but also her country and everything she left behind. In her self-penned “Deylaman” she states that “the desert of my house is lonely, and longing in my song.” A soulful song, she questions the place in northern Iran near the Caspian Sea, much like a mother would lovingly speak to her child. The conceptual theme of Our Garden is Alone is not only her missing Iran, but that her home is similarly longing for her voice. Never forgetting her homeland, cultural heritage and background, the cover photo shows Marjan standing at her grandparents’ desert farm. An activist, Marjan also feels that Our Garden is Alone may help create more understanding and awareness of socio-political and global issues.                 

Previous album of the Vahdat sisters (Mahsa and Marjan) regularly appeared on world music charts, and Marjan’s latest solo project continues with a successful formula of incorporating both Iranian and Norwegian musicians on original works, as well as utilizing some poetry from great Sufi scholar Rumi (“Love Resonates” and “Tantanan”). Whether longing for a beloved person or place, “Sunrise” paints a soundscape for the singer to exclaim, “I am the blue sky of your realm, I am a cloud of hope in your mirage.” Sung from a bird’s perspective, “Heart of Darkness” uses a poem from Ahmad Shamloo to address sadness and sorrow but also provides a glimmer of hope, while “Homeland” is about detachment but looks forward to a day or reckoning and resurrection.            

It’s amazing how a singer’s silky voice can so easily converse with the delicate instrumental sounds of piano, synthesizer, ney (end blown flute) and kamancheh (bowed lute). On selections like “Tantanan” and “Singing Pigeon,” the musicians convey striking moods, fluctuating between ominous uncertainty and blissful trancelike delight, but they never seem to lose sight of a vision for the album as an entire, uninterrupted suite of music. In only a few locations does Marjan layer in some harmonies with herself. Produced by Erik Hillestad for the Norwegian Kirkelig Kulturverksted label, this sonorous album has splendid music, a beautiful cover, and song lyrics in Persian and English. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)