The Oldest Voice in the World (Azerbaijan)
“Thank you for bringing me back to the sky”
Acclaimed Field-Recording Producer Ian Brennan
Travels Across the Globe to Iran Border to Capture
The Wisdom of the Oldest Voices in the World
Bonus Tracks Feature Special Guests:
The Kronos Quartet, Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys, Yuka Honda, and The Good Ones (Rwanda)
Oakland, Calif. — Thursday, February 2, 2023 — GRAMMY Award-winning music producer and lauded field-recording trailblazer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project, Ustad Saami) continues his acclaimed recording career of over 50 releases with the first album ever made featuring the wisdom and voices of those over 100 years old. The Oldest Voice in the World (Azerbaijan) “Thank you for bringing me back to the sky” (Six Degrees Records, Release Date: April 7, 2023) takes Brennan and his wife, Italian-Rwandan filmmaker and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli to the remote villages of the “long-livers” just miles from the Iran border. 22 pieces comprise the album with five bonus tracks featuring artists that Brennan has collaborated with over his acclaimed career: The Kronos Quartet, Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys, Yuka Honda, and The Good Ones (Rwanda).
The Conception of The Oldest Voice in the World (Azerbaijan) “Thank you for bringing me back to the sky”
In late 2021, Brennan and Delli traveled to the southern mountains of Azerbaijan, where legend has it that the world’s oldest man hailed from there — having survived to age 168. Brennan and Delli made the ambitious excursion amid a coincidental deluge of social media trends going public on the best practices for “staying young.” Visiting rural villages to capture the heart of the under-represented population of the oldest people on earth, the centenarians’ stories eloquently came to life and serve as an anti-ageism antidote.
Upon their arrival in Azerbaijan, villagers had been ravaged by COVID-19 and most residents over 100 had sadly died in recent months, including the oldest known woman in the country. Traversing from village to village, they came to discover centenarian after centenarian living without indoor plumbing, sleeping on floor-bound mattresses, and what seemed to Brennan, that they were almost anticipating their arrival with such a warm reception by the Talysh people.
Brennan is renowned for scouring the far stretches of the globe to document singers in an uninhibited, authentic fashion. From recordings in regions such as Rwanda, Malawi, South Sudan, Karachi, Comoros, Palestine, Ukerewe Island, Cambodia, and Romania, this latest project brings him to a region where no outsiders ever wander. The villages were so remote, Brennan’s Azerbaijani speaking companion from the city advised that the locals’ words were completely unintelligible. And even the Talysh speaker from the valley below could only make out less than 80% of what was being said in the remote mountain villages.
As they began meeting the centenarians, one theme was ever-present once they sang. Most would sing of their mother, and their secret to life was simple, “I was loved.” Voices were recorded in their natural living environments. For instrumentation along with their voices, Brennan used the wood-burning furnace providing heat for the house, a walker, their own footsteps, a broken bedroom door, or the farm flour grinder.
“The texture of their singing was as if they had voices featuring distortion boxes built by time,” says Ian Brennan. “While recording, I removed my headphones more than once thinking there was some malfunction in the machinery, only to realize that what I was hearing was the singer’s pure tone. This project was a rare instance in music where the majority of people did not make the cut due to being too young — a mere ninety or eighty-six failed to impress.”
Brennan and Delli experienced raw emotion from the centenarians. A former shepherd was singing and became overcome and shakily stood up to leave the room after having sung a song that his mother used to sing. Brennan recalls, “We feared our visit had caused him unnecessary upset. But when he returned, he beamed, grabbed my hand and kissed it repeatedly, and said ‘Thank you for bringing me back to the sky.'”