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Audio CD, April 7, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Eagle was recorded in Urumqi and Beijing with Robin Haller and Matteo Scumaci as producers, and a line-up of musicians including IZ's Meyrambek on kobyz and Haller himself on sherter. This is a seminal album, touched with the renegade spirit of everyone from the Flying Burrito Brothers to the Velvet Underground and Nick Cave.

Here are traditional Kazak folk songs and Mamer's own compositions, and guests including Grammy winner Bela Fleck (on a Chinagrass duelling-banjos-style duet) and the late, great French producer Hector Zazou.

Eagle's eponymous opener starts with a recording of short-wave radio from Urumqi: a random clash of influences that introduce us, metaphorically, to Mamer. Ambient sounds - a trotting horse, a call to prayer from an Urumqi mosque - place the listener in Xianjiang; drones, loops and feedback effects maintain the natural, magical feel that prevails there. Mamer's voice soars and soothes: the aural equivalent, if you like, of watching a great bird fly.

Eagles soar in the slipstreams of Xinjiang province, a windblown place way out in western China. A place where forests of stone jut from land carved by restless tectonic plates; where glacial waters flow into melon fields then disappear into deserts. A place where nomads herd sheep across grasslands and spirits dwell in rocks and trees, take shape of birds and animals. A place where everything - eagles, horses, wind, spirits - is represented in music.

The singer/songwriter Mamer was raised in Xinjiang, one of ten children for whom singing and playing the two-string dombra lute was as much a part of life as sunrise. Out here - in this land of Turkic tongues and ethnic minorities - traditional music flows from yurts and across the sparsely inhabited steppes. And Mamer's voice, a low, resonant, magical thing, still joins it.

"The great old Kazak folk songs were born when people were shepherding," says the boyish thirty-something. "Living in cities we are often too busy to allow this sort of tranquillity to enter our lives. I have to return to the grasslands once or twice a year. That is where I get my inspiration, my creativity."

He pauses, smiles. "I always stay awhile with the old people in the mountains, learning their songs and traditions," he continues in his native Kazakh. "Without this a whole way of life will be lost to the young generation. I want to breathe new life into the poems and songs I grew up with. "

Mamer's stunning debut album Eagle does precisely that, revitalising the ancient songs and instruments of his heritage with an alt-country aesthetic that's part Townes Van Zandt, part Huun Huur Tu. This is Chinagrass: simple, honest, direct music with one foot in the past and another in the future. Folk (not folkloric) music with punk's do-it-yourself ethos. Folk (not folkloric) music with a kick and a twist.


Xinjiang native, Mamer's Real World debut is so stunningly original and downright interesting. Intrumentals are solid, but its Mamer's voice that brings you into a strange space of 1960's psychedelica mixed with 60's folk mixed with very up-to-date production, which levels out the bass nicely and makes the mouth harp twang and shine. The sturdy drumbeat of Karagashai and the proverbial hook of Proverbs make them two of the most addictive songs here....Hector Zazou mix of Mountain a fitting closer to this seminally weird and deliciously intricate album. --Sing Out! magazine

1. Eagle
2. Iligai
3. Proverbs
4. Celebration
5. Man
6. Kargashai
7. Flute Song
8. Mountain Wind
9. Blackbird
10. Where Are You Going?
11. Mountain Wind (Hector Zazou)

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 7, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: REAL WORLD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,341 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 18, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Picture a map of China as a squat U. In the upper left corner where Russia and Kazakhstan meet, adjacent to Mongolia is Xinjiang province, home of the Uyghurs but also Han, Khazahs, Tartars, and Hui peoples. Vast grasslands is the terrain and horses are livestock. It is at the edge of nowhere. Hence, it is remarkable that from this land comes a young musician with Western alternative country sensitivities, the spirit of nature and openness, modern musical production, and the joy of experimental world fusion. Not surprising these days, the ubiquitous American bluegrass, world music, jazz wizard Béla Fleck in one of his Chinese excursions (See: The Sparrow Quartet) was around Beijing to contribute to one of the tracks on this album. With assorted indigenous and adopted instruments (the dombra, nylon acoustic and electric guitars, bazouki, and jews harp, plus the occasional support of other musicians to supply throat singing, percussion, back-up vocals, bass, and Fleck's banjo), we listen to music akin to Mongolian and Tuvan sutra chanting and with rocking rhythms but also with the driving dombra sound and strong melodies of Siberia and Khazakstan. Moreover, some tracks also demonstate Turkic-Persian flavors, such as Flute Song and Where Are You Going?, which has the feel of a maqam improvisation. The bonus track is a electronic mix of an earlier track, Mountain Wind. If you were not familiar with any of these central Asian ethnic sources, you would be hard pressed to place the music. It is so special and different that the album opens with a brief radio sample of traditional Han Chinese music to emphasize the contrast. I find the album a pure delight, a musical wonder, and an exciting discovery; its being distributed by Real World will bring Mamer (Mamerjan) to wide attention. We are witnessing further musical interactions of our shrinking global village. The spirit of the Silk Road thrives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel H. Potter on September 13, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Mamer is reputed to be an influence of legendary status to generations of musicians in Central Asia ~ I wouldn't know but listening to the cuts on "Eagle" lends credence to the claim. I've been playing this CD for friends and describing it as Mongolian Pop Music. Not sure how else to describe the blend of electrified guitars, vocals and traditional instrumentation but it is a blend that definitely works and keeps on working again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Leah on March 31, 2011
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
alas, that few will find. I love music with sparse,simple instrumentation, as then, often, the voice must be used as an instrument. Peaceful and beautiful.
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