This 5-track digital-only EP features several variations of Ipiros. This song was originally made for Syriana’s Road To Damascus album that came out in 2007. However, it never made it to the album and was only previously released as a remix on the vinyl A Life in Film.
All the profits from sales from The Ipiros Remixes will be donated to International Rescue: Greece, a charity that provides aid to Syrian refigees who arrived in Greece. All the musicians are giving their work free of charge.
The musicians behind the Syriana project are British musician Nick ‘Dubulah’ Page (Transglobal Underground and Temple of Sound) and Irish bassist Bernard O’Neill.
The cinematic Kithara Remix features Arabic violin, mesmerizing ambient sounds, Middle Eastern percussion and great guitar work.
Somo Arco Iris Remix highlights the Middle Eastern nay and has vocals in Portuguese by the talented Maria Joao Branco.
The Jazz Remix showcases a saxophone performance.
Liverpool live Remix brings together Middle Eastern and Greek influences, featuring superb Greek vocalist and nay player Kalia Lyraki.
On the S40 Remix the qanun gets the attention it deserves.
Two ancient traditions meet on Letters from Iraq: Oud and String Quintet, western classical music and Arabic music. Oud (Arabic lute also known as ud) maestro Rahim Alhaj has been living in the United States for over a decade and return to Iraq in 2014 to learn about the current situation there.
Letters from Iraq is Alhaj’s expression of the emotions related with war-ravaged Iraq, stories of love, sadness and suffering. It’s a beautiful bittersweet album where the oud provides exquisite interaction with western classical music string instruments.
The lineup includes Rahim Alhaj on oud, David Felberg on violin; Ruxandra Marquardt on violin; Shanti Randall on viola; James Holland on cello; Jean-Luc Matton on bass viol; and Issa Maluff on percussion.
The CD physical version includes a 40-page booklet with photos, illustrations, and liner notes in English and Arabic.
Acclaimed Palestinian brothers Samir, Wissam, and Adnan Joubran are set to perform at Saturday, July 29 at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College. The three ud players fuse Arabic music with jazz, rock, and flamenco.
Haytham Safia, born in 1980, is an Arab-Israeli from Jerusalem. His passion for the Ud started at an early stage.
In 2001 he made his debut as a performer in The Netherlands where he acquired a firm position in the musical ensemble accompanying the Galili Dance Group; they toured throughout Europe.
In 2002 he graduated with distinction at the Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem. With Joshua Samson and Tony Overwater he performed at the Cultura Nova Festival in Heerlen September 2003. In February 24 he played as a soloist with the Holland Symphonia in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
In November 2004 he participated in a workshop in the Rasa (Utrecht) for the Lute festival with another eight musicians from different nationalities.
Haytham Safia is in essence a classical Arabic musician but his compositions and music are influenced by other musical styles such as Persian, Balkan and jazz music.
He established his own group The Haytham Safia Quartet which consists of four musicians from different backgrounds: a Dutch, German and an African. The group performs Haytham’s original compositions that encompass both his performance experience and academic training while still true to his Arab roots.
Badavi Zubayr, who sings and plays the ud, represents the urban tradition of the Hadramawt Valley (Yemen). Badavi composes his own melodies as much as he draws inspiration from the rich traditions of the Valley. He is influenced both by the old town’s culture as well as by the surrounding desert that his family comes from. Badavi is especially influenced by the tribal and Beduin tradition of Hadramawt. The tribesmen of the side valleys, like Dawcan, perform the dahifa, where two people dance in a circle, accompanied by mizmar, a double-reed clarinet or qasaba, a straight flute. The Beduin perform the miraikuz dance with hand-clapping and wooden castanets called maraqis.
Zubayr lives in the historical town of Shibam founded during the 9th century. It is also known as the “Manhattan of the desert”. The architecture of this town symbolizes the mixture between the pre-Islamic and Islamic cultures of Yemen
Mina Rad, a Paris-based journalist traveled all the way to Yemen to interview Zubayr. This is an account of her experience: “At the old port of Shibam, we asked a taxi driver about Badavi who proudly brought us to his beautiful house with two floors. There we found Badavi and his musicians. Badavi, a fifty year old man, with a brown face and a deep look, was surprised by the arrival of a journalist who came all the way from the West to find him, welcomed us very warmly. It was the afternoon, the time that the people of the desert get together to chew the qat (the special herb that has a relaxing effect). We were lucky, because Badavi was rehearsing with his musicians. He welcomed us in his big guesthouse, called in Yemenite Mafradj. A beautiful hall was surrounded by the small traditional wooden windows made by the hands of the artist himself. In such a warm atmosphere, Badavi and his group performed an unforgettable concert for us. Accompanied by a rhythmic sound of the waterpipe, while the musicians were chewing their qat, we discovered Badavi. Through his peaceful sound of ud and his deep voice, we entered to the magic world of the desert.”
Ahmed Yaslam Khames Zubier, whose nickname is Badavi, which means the son of the desert, is one of the most popular singers in the valley of Hadramawt, in the South of Yemen. In his hometown, Shibam, with 4 inhabitants, he is considered as the king of the wedding ceremonies.
He was brought up in a family of musicians and carpenters. Since his childhood, he learned the family’s crafts and music from his father. The first instrument that he played was a mizmar (a kind of clarinet). Inspired by his sensibility for poetry, he started to compose poems. “I wanted so much to sing and play music, that is why I gave up the mizmar and learned ud”, with enthusiasm he explained “My life is summed up in my poetry and my music. I let my poetry be rhymed by the sound of my ud”.
At the age of twenty he formed his own group and made his first recording on cassette in 1973, when he was 23. His cassettes became very popular in the region. Since then he has produced dozens of them. Every driver in the desert, has one in his car. As said one of the drivers of a trolley, “the long roads of the desert become more joyful thanks to the melodies of the son of the desert.” The people of Hadramawt like not only his music but also his poetry that describes the everyday life of the Beduins, love and the feeling of being away from hometown.
Badavi is not only a musician but he also makes his own instruments. The originality of his music is based on the mixture between the happy melodies of the coast and the nostalgic ones of the desert. Even though the musical tendencies of the region are to modernize the music with western instruments, he remains faithful to the old tradition of Hadramawt. That’s why the Hadramawt people who emigrated to the Arabic gulf countries, very often invite him to the Gulf countries to sing for them at their weddings and bring them the melodies of the hometown.
Hassan al-Ajami is one of the last players of qanbus, a small lute with 4 strings. He represents the elegant tradition of Sana. He is the third generation of the qanbus player and singer. His peaceful melodies relate the sound of his ancestors from Iran to Yemen.
Mohamed Adlen Fergani was born on the 29th of April 1993 in the city of Constantine, Algeria. He belongs to the Fergani family where Maluf music is a part of the heart and soul of all family members. This family atmosphere has pushed his learning of the use of many musical instruments: percussion at the age of 8, mandolin at 13, then violin and oud (Arabic lute).
Beside his musical career, Adlen is studying Aeronautics at Constantine University. He is part of the 4th Generation of the Fergani family that includes his great grandfather Hamou Fergani, grandfather Hadj Mohamed Taher Fergani, his father Nasserdine Fergani and his uncle Salim Fergani.
Carrying over the mission to preserve the musical patrimonial heritage of Constantine, already developed by the predecessors, he is distinguished by his beautiful voice appreciated by his fans and Maluf followers. His musical products are inspired by the heart, spirit and allows the listeners to travel through the ancient Arab Andalusian world thanks to the selected words and refined music. The success has been proven in many festivals, wedding ceremonies, Ramadan parties or religious events.
The title of his first album is “Ana el mamhoun bel ghoram”, supervised by his grandfather, maestro Mohamed Hadj Fergani and featuring the participation of other artists as well. A second album is in the works.
Adlen Fergani has performed on TV, radio and at numerous festivals throughout Algeria.
His awards and trophies include Trophy & Expression of Gratitude for the conservation of Constantine Patrimonies, 8th Edition of « Cultural National Festival of Andalusian Music and Maluf (2014) and Trophy & Expression of Gratitude for the participation in “Knowledge days University of Constantine 2012.
Rahim AlHaj, virtuoso ud musician and composer, was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the ud at age nine. Early on, it was clear that he had a remarkable talent for playing the ud. Alhaj studied under the renowned Munir Bashir, considered by many to be the greatest ud player ever, and Salim Abdul Kareem, at the Institute of Music in Baghdad, Iraq.
AlHaj won various awards at the Conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition. He holds a degree in Arabic Literature from Mustunsariya University in Baghdad. In 1991, after the first Gulf War, Mr. AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism against the Saddam Hussein regime and began his life in Jordan and Syria. He moved to the United States of America in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, New Mexico ever since. Rahim became a U.S. citizen on August 15, 2008.
Rahim AlHaj has performed around the world and is considered one of the finest oud players in the world. He has won many honors and awards including two Grammy nominations. Rahim has recorded and performed with other master musicians of varied backgrounds and styles including multi-faceted American guitarist Bill Frisell, modern accordion innovator Guy Klucevsek, Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan and indie-rock pioneers REM.
He has composed pieces for solo ud, string quartet, symphony and beyond. Rahim’s music delicately combines traditional Iraqi maqams with contemporary styling and influence. His compositions evoke the experience of exile from his homeland and of new beginnings in his adopted country. His pieces establish new concepts without altering the foundation of the traditional “Iraqi School of oud”.
His discography includes earlier works such as The Second Baghdad (2002), the live CD Iraqi Music in a Time of War (2003), and Friendship: Oud and Sadaqa String Quartet (2005), a unique East and West musical collaboration; Home Again (UR Music, 2008) features original compositions portraying his trip to Iraq after 13 years in exile. His March 2009 release, Ancient Sounds (UR Music), a duet recording with Amjad Ali Khan, was nominated for a 2010 Grammy in the Best Traditional World Music Recording category.
When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings was also nominated for a Grammy in 2008.
In November of 2009 he released a special recording Under The Rose with Ottmar Liebert, Jon Gagan and Barrett Martin, with all net proceeds benefiting Direct Aid Iraq.
Rahim is featured in the 2009 documentary film on Smithsonian Folkways Records. Capping off an artistically fruitful 2009, Rahim was awarded the prestigious U.S. Artist Ford Fellowship Grant on December 14th.
Little Earth: Voices For Peace was released in 2010. The project features Rahim’s original compositions in collaboration with Bill Frisell, Klucevsek, REM, Maria De Barros, Liu Fang, Robert Mirabal, Hossein Omoumi, The Santa Fe Guitar Quartet and many more.
Natacha Atlas was born in Belgium, the daughter of an Egyptian father and an English mother. Natacha grew up in the Moroccan suburbs of Brussels, becoming fluent in French, Spanish, Arabic and English, immersing herself in Arabic culture, Egyptian “shaabi” pop and learning from childhood the raks sharki (belly dance) techniques that she uses during her spectacular live performances.
Even more remarkable than Natacha’s dance moves is her unmistakable voice, rich in nuance and grounded in Arabic music.
Natacha moved to England as a teenager and became Northampton’s first Arabic rock singer. Since then has involved herself in a wide variety of musical projects. Dividing her time between the UK and Brussels, she sang in a variety of Arabic and Turkish nightclubs, and spent a brief period in a Belgian salsa band called Mandanga. As she commuted between Northampton and Brussels, however, she began to attract the attention of the Balearic beat crew ¡Loca! and Jah Wobble, who was then assembling his Invaders of the Heart. Wobble was looking for an wide-ranging Middle Eastern singer and fell in love with her voice.
In 1991, both these projects became a reality. Timbal by ¡Loca! started out as a track on Nation Records’ Fuse Two compilation and became a massive dance club hit, while Wobble’s http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000007641/musidelmund-20/002-7906139-4219234?%5Fencoding=UTF8&camp=1789&link%5Fcode=xm2 | Rising Above Bedlam – five tracks which Natasha co-wrote – attracted much critical acclaim and a Mercury award nomination.
The success of Timbal consolidated Natacha’s relationship with the ground-breaking Nation Label, who introduced her to TransGlobal Underground (TGU), at that time enjoying Top 40 success with http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000DEO0/musidelmund-20/002-7906139-4219234?%5Fencoding=UTF8&camp=1789&link%5Fcode=xm2 | Templehead.
First guesting with TransGlobal Underground in 1991, Natacha became two years later a member of the core quartet of TransGlobal Underground, as lead singer and belly-dancer. A couple of years later, it was TransGlobal Underground’s Tim Whelan, Hamid ManTu and Nick Page (a.k.a. Count Dubulah, who helped her to make her first solo album, Diaspora.
Diaspora came out in the summer of 1995 to critical acclaim. Natacha combined the dubby, rhythmic-driven global dance of her longtime associates Transglobal Underground, with the more traditional work of Arabic musicians like Tunisian singer-songwriter Walid Rouissi and Egyptian composer and ud master Essam Rashad. The result was a collection of songs of love and yearning that genuinely fused West and East.
On her second LP, Halim, Natacha explored further her deeply felt affinity with Arabic musical heritage.
In parallel with the success of her solo albums she remained a full-time Transglobal Underground member, and Transglobal Underground composed her backing band, until they left Nation Records in 1999, and they have remained allies throughout her subsequent career. Atlas has appeared on most TGU albums and its members are usually involved in the production of her solo albums.
1997’s Halim followed, and then Gedida in 1999 , both creatively and naturally fusing Middle Eastern and European styles, and delighting an ever-increasing audience in both territories.
In 2000, Natacha released The Remix Collection, in which material from the first three albums was reworked by a variety of remixers, including Talvin Singh, Banco de Gaia, Youth, 16B, Klute, the Bullitnuts, TJ Rehmi, Spooky and Transglobal Underground.
Natacha’s fourth album Ayeshteni was released in 2001.
2002’s album, Natacha Atlas and Marc Eagleton Project’s Foretold in the Language of Dreams, was a considerable divergence. No beats; a calm recording, involving a slightly smaller group of musicians than normal, including Syrian qanun master Abdullah Chhadeh, whom Natacha married in 1999.
Aside from her own projects, Natacha remains very much in demand as a guest singer for the recordings and performances of a remarkably wide range of musicians, including Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook, the Indigo Girls, FunDaMental, Ghostland, Abdel Ali Slimani, Toires, !Loca, Musafir, Sawt El Atlas, Franco Battiato, Juno Reactor, Dhol Foundation, Jah Wobble, Jaz Coleman, Apache Indian (on his chart hit Arranged Marriage), Mick Karn, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Millennium Night spectacular at the Pyramids, Jonathan Demme’s film The Truth About Charlie, and David Arnold’s film scores including Stargate and Die Another Day.
Natacha Atlas spent a lot of time in her father’s homeland, Egypt. There, she worked with members of Transglobal Underground and Egyptian musicians. Her album, Ayeshteni, was recorded and composed there.
In 2003, she released Something Dangerous, a solo album of contrasts and collaborations, in which she injected Middle Eastern music into UK pop, pulling in dance music, rap, drum’n’bass, R&B, Hindi pop, film music and French chanson.
On Something Dangerous (2003), Atlas not only combined more styles than ever, but for the first time on an Atlas album it featured guest vocalists, and more singing in English than she did before. There is a collaboration with English composer Jocelyn Pook (who, among other things, created the score for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut), it has Atlas’ Arabic vocal lushly surrounded by Pook’s western classical orchestration for the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Another guest is West Indian Princess Julianna, whom Atlas met when they were both guesting with Temple of Sound.
On the Arabic side, Atlas used Abdullah Chhadeh and one of Egypt’s finest shaabi trumpet players, the late Sami El Babli (deceased in a car crash shortly after the recording), to whom the track is dedicated. Atlas and Sinead O’Connor, who last recorded together on John Reynolds’, Justin Adams’ and Caroline Dale’s 2002 Ghostland album, trade aphorisms in ‘Simple Heart”.
With Mish Maoul (MNTCD 1038), released in April 2006, Atlas’ career came full circle to touch base with her roots.
The new album returned to the music she grew up hearing in the Moroccan suburb of Brussels, particularly when the Golden Sound Studio Orchestra of Cairo makes its entrance. It also reunited her again with Temple of Sound’s Nick Page (aka Count Dubulah), with whom she first worked in Transglobal Underground and who helped produce her very first solo album Diaspora.
The very names of the CDs I’m reviewing here (some, anyway) indicate that they’re looking to go to places that haven’t yet been fully explored musically. Ever-eager to hear new trails mapped out in the world of world music, I couldn’t be happier.
Tunisian Amine Mraihi is a wizard of the oud (Arabic lute). His brother Hamza has equally mastered the kanun (Arabic zither). Together they head up an impressive ensemble called The Band Beyond Borders and are looking to demonstrate as much on Fertile Paradoxes (ARC Music, 2017). You might think you have cause for concern about an opening track entitled “Spleen,” but have no fear. It’s as perfect a mood-setter as you could hope for, with Amine’s pensive riffing joined in due time by Hamza’s complimentary swirl, plus tabla, violin and classical Indian vocals. A meditative air soon jumps headlong into a stops-out jam featuring a chamber orchestra, layered percussion and solos galore, including saxophone, before settling back into the establishing calm.
The remainder of the pieces (shortest among them sporting a seven-and-a-half-minute running time) similarly blend serenity and thunder, tossing in a zesty accordion at one turn and a klezmer-like clarinet, flamenco flair or an abrupt jazz fusion passage the next. It would sound like a mess were it not for how precisely all the players are attuned to every nuanced change and how expertly they execute them. Whether it’s the evocative side or the supercharged moments that grab you most (or maybe the bridges between them), the sheer “wow” factor of this music makes it a must.
If the title doesn’t say it all, as in the case of Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues’ album Different Voices (Dawnserly Records, 2016), it might be necessary to add an explanation like “Blues Harmonica and Classical String Quartet,” which this one does on the front cover. Siegel’s blues harp is certainly the first thing heard, in the form of a mournful wail that ushers in violins, viola, cello and the saxophone of guest Ernie Watts on the cheeky drag of “Missing Persons Blues.” That one’s a head-bobber, and nothing that follows breaks the flow, be it the vocal contributions of Matthew Santos (who also does some handy beatboxing), blues vet Sam Lay or Marcy Levy (reinvigorating that old warhorse “Lay Down Sally,” which she co-wrote with Eric Clapton).
High marks also for the aching gospel tinges of Chicago folk trio Sons of the Never Wrong on “I’ll Fly Away” and subtle counterpunch of the tabla that adds a groove dimension throughout. The interwoven tones of harmonica and strings bring forward the roots of their respective traditions while keeping the blues undertow intact and allowing for experimentation such as the Central Asian-flavored “Galloping Horses,” a track which ends too soon. It all wraps up beautifully with “The Sky Will Fall,” a most heed-worthy lament; although I think music of this caliber can keep both sky and earth intact.
A different sort of blue and a different sort of harp (think stringed) lead the way on New Perspectives (independent release, 2017) by Amelia Romano. This San Franciscan gal has been playing the harp from a very young age, presently favoring the cobalt blue electric model. And yes, some of the delicately refined tones affiliated with the harp are heard on this disc. But Romano has an ear and a vision well beyond the expected (her time teaching music in a South African township is one reason for that) and she takes the harp in Latin, blues, flamenco, jazz and singer/songwriter directions without missing a pluck.
While the personal touch of the relationship tale “Smile” opens the album on an inviting note that shows Romano to be a fine singer as well, it’s her versatility on the harp that really makes the whole thing a gem. South-of-the-border familiarities abound with “Bésame Mucho” and “Joropo Ortiz” reminding us that the harp is as much a Latin folkloric instrument as anything else, and in her own compositions Romano works the harp strings like heartstrings, whether laying back for an emotionally ambient passage or skillfully jamming inventive arrangements including the title track. Joined by varying, mainly acoustic combinations of bass, percussion, curator, guitar, viola, cello and reeds, Romano never comes across indulgent or showy. Instead she wields her chosen instrument with a combination of finesse and fire that’s unbeatable.
Build Music (Luaka Bop, 2017) is the latest by Brooklyn-based Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, and the music they’ve built is based on the ancient sound of Sierra Leone’s bubu horns, bamboo instruments used to accompany Ramadan processions. The bubu tones are recreated on keyboards and applied to modern Afropop arrangements topped with Nabay’s dryly infectious vocals. Lively, catchy and danceable though the results are, the programmed instrumentation that dominates gets a bit annoying after a while. It’s good, but it could have and should have been better. Recommended for those who prefer electronic over organic by a wide margin.
The musician’s collective it represents is appreciably larger, but on Jinja (Zambaleta, 2016), The Nile Project is comprised of 13 players and singers from seven nations (Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda) that are among those spanned by the world’s longest river. The project’s first album was a live set from their 2013 debut concert, and this, their second (named for the Ugandan city in which the collective most recently gathered), is an assemblage of recordings from both proper and impromptu studios. In the end it matters little whether the music was laid down on or off the fly, because it’s seamless and brilliant.
The basics are easily described: melodies provided by the oud, krar and adungu (Arabic, Ethiopian and Ugandan lutes respectively); ample support from bass, saxophone and qawala (Egyptian flute); vocals traded between countries and genders; galloping percussion from across the spectrum and once in a while a specific element like the ikebme (lamellaphone) arising prominently. Musically, it’s tougher to find descriptive words.
Anyone familiar with Egyptian raks sharki or the increasingly well-known strains of Ethio-jazz will find common ground goodness here, as will those who can appreciate combined Egyptian and Sudanese love song sentiments, the embellishing of an Ethiopian Christian hymn with sounds straight out of the Muslim world, multilingual singing with shared passion as an unbreakable link, the beauty of acoustic instruments bursting forth unencumbered by overproduction or the way the whole disc comes across as how you’d imagine the perfect soundtrack accompanying a visit to the Nile’s 4000-plus miles would sound. And I’m barely marring the surface in relating the many pleasures to be heard.
If combining oud and kanun (see above) with piano isn’t entirely new, it’s still not the sort of combination you hear every day. And what some might find truly radical about Andalusia of Love (Nagam Records, 2016) is the fact that Marcel Khalife, a Lebanese Christian, sets to music the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008), a Palestinian who championed the cause of peace between Palestine and Israel.
The elder Khalife (on oud and vocals) is joined by his sons Rami (piano) and Bachar (percussion) and Gilbert Yammine (kanun). The foursome work together with an energy that builds and separates much like the nuances of poetry: musical passages correspond to the rising and falling of sung stanzas supported by variations in tone, feel and speed to emphasize what I can only assume are changes in mood, intent and subject matter.
One need not understand the language to appreciate the unity-espousing feel of music that ranges from traditional to experimental. The savory concluding track “Achikain,” which tapers to a trickle after a flood of inspired group dynamics, is a fitting end to a wonderfully rendered cycle of music.
A native of Lebanon, May Nasr has been influenced by the songs of the great Fairuz, Zaki Nassif, Ahmad Kaabour, Marcel Khalife, Julia Boutros.
In her early singing career, May was mentored by the renowned sound engineer Farid Abul Kheir, and trained by the great Lebanese singer Zaki Nassif as well as Badia Sabra Haddad, the former voice teacher of Fairuz.
A voice for freedom, justice, equality, humanity and love, May often focuses on the beauty of the Lebanese people in her music, using songs of peace, love and resilience to inspire positive change in local and global Arab communities. A strong voice for social justice as well, Nasr helps support local charities as well as global organizations through the proceeds of her many popular concerts.
She has performed to ecstatic audiences throughout the Middle East and the world. Her first CD, Lil Ghaly, was released in November 2008 and her second recording, Written in Water, with Lourdes Pérez, was released in 2010.
“May sings with her guitar, her heart and the beautiful voice with which she has been blessed.” – Zaki Nassif