Vas ‎– In The Garden Of Souls

Vas ‎– In The Garden Of Souls

Vas ‎– In The Garden Of Souls

Label: Narada World ‎– 72438-49188-2-8
Format: CD, Album, Reissue
Country: US
Released: 2000
Genre: Electronic, Folk, World
Style: Tribal, Persian Classical, Folk


Azam Ali was born in Iran, but when she was four her family moved to India, where she grew up and seemingly absorbed the rich culture that surrounded her. She sings in many languages but also quite often sings in a language all her own – spontaneous vocals that work beautifully with the throbbing rhythms of Greg Ellis’ drumming. Her voice can be cultured and controlled when she is singing songs from a more “classical” tradition, or it can be wild, strong and ethereal. She is also a poet as well as a composer and seeks to combine her poetic sense with her music. After moving to Los Angeles with her parents in 1985, she began studying the santur under the guidance of Manoochehr Sadeghi.

Greg Ellis grew up in Los Gatos, California, and began playing trumpet when he was nine years old. He became interested in drums at age 12 and has made percussion instruments his major passion since then. He not only composes music for himself and for Vas, but also music for film and television. The two musicians met at UCLA in 1995 at a Master Musicians of Jajouka concert, found a common bond in their approach to making music and formed Vas.

In 1997 they released their first CD ‘Sunyata’ on Narada Equinox and justifiably caused a stir in the “world” music community. Drawing on her Persian/Indian upbringing, Azam Ali is an extraordinarily gifted singer and Greg Ellis an outstanding percussionist. They have both proven themselves to be very fine composers as well.

Released in 2000, ‘In the Garden of Souls’ is the third record from Vas. Ali and Ellis are joined by Cameron Stone, a guest cellist. This album is a grand-scale project and one of my favourite world music albums of all time. Azam Ali’s Farsi vocals tell tales of unknown splendor, triumph, sorrow, and pain. Dark, foreboding passages weave and intertwine with light, ascending passages throughout the soundscape effortlessly.

Ellis is a superb multi-instrumentalist. His percussion supports and surrounds ethereal atmospheres as Stone’s cello provides a canvas to splay the soundscape. Ali’s voice soars through time, taking you on a trip to the world’s past and unknown dimensions. This is richly textured story-telling and dreaming. The artists’ collective fertile imagination and creativity create an experience that rises above the genre labels and gives birth to something of real depth and lasting value. Their spiritual intentions are obvious in the choice of their arrangements and subjects, but this serves to enhance their music because it is obviously so genuine. This album is an excellent cross-cultural hybrid. If you enjoy Sheila Chandra, Natacha Atlas and Loreena McKennitt, you will love this album.

Frequently compared to the Australian band ‘Dead Can Dance’, Vas released four full-length albums and in 2004 after the group’s last album ‘Feast of Silence’, Ali and Ellis went their own separate ways.

So get comfortable, turn off the lights, hop on the magic carpet and be taken on a journey into the mystic realm. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Track listing

In The Garden Of Souls 10:26
Inamorata 4:50
Samaya 6:07
Prayer For Soheil 5:04
Ceremony Of Passage 3:44
Beyond Despair 1:37
The Inward Coil 5:11
Éphémère (Upon The Faded) 6:23
Lila 5:26
Unbecome 6:11
Sevdama 7:32

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