Album Review: S H I R A N – S H I R A N [Batov Records; 2nd November 2018]

S H I R A N sings in the language of dreams of freedom. Sharing tales of her family and her community’s journey from Yemen to Israel, she tells stories of desire, determination and hope that never age. Through electronica-inflected Israeli pop, she conjures up dark minimalist landscapes similar to Lorde topped with the syrupy catchiness of Madonna.

Born to half-Yemeni and half-Iraqi parents in a Jewish household, thirty-two-year-old S H I R A N is able to disperse any political agenda in her music. As a result, her self-titled album release with Batov Records has the rare appeal of reaching out to both Western and Arabic audiences. She has a distinct urban vibe, fashioning an LP that mutates commercial pop with folkloric story-telling.

The main track on the album is ‘Zehere’. This is a short offering written from the viewpoint of the sister of a Jewish Israeli girl keen to see more of the world. The short wait for gratification that is gifted from the sweet-fueled chorus is a nod to the craving and impatience of an immature mind. This is an easy-to-grasp tune that suits a club dancefloor with sing-along hooks and addictive horn motifs, compelling you back for more.

‘Ya Banat Al Yaman’ is an emotive live recording which captures the vocal dexterity of her voice. Probably the most sophisticated capturing, it is brimming with grit and force as she flits smoothly between beautiful tones. ‘Kanfey Nesharim’ is a song that successfully conveys the introverted driving desire to find one’s motherland. It is juxtaposed by the regret of needing to leave an old life behind. The wind instruments paint light shades of hope, leading the fight against the fearful beat of reverberating, pulsing drums.

S H I R A N may not be the most original recording, but it does achieve accessibility to a new genre for those unfamiliar with Eastern music. Although heavy on reflection and presenting a theme of marginalisation, the overwhelming end feeling is ultimately one of feel-good optimism.