New York (New York), USA – Fused is producer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Khuzami’s celebration of the cultural and ethnic forces that surround him. Recorded in New York City, Fused features artists such as Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Frederick Reed (Jeff Buckley, Sesame Street, Susan McKeown), Tommy “Rameses” Rodriguez (Daddy Yankee, Miles Copeland), Anath Benais (Fiesta Mora [original version of Alabina]), Duke McVinnie (member of alt-rock group Shivaree and a member of Joan Baez’s band), Rachid Halihal (Rachid Taha), Maurice Chedid, and Nickodemus (Turntables on the Hudson). It was mixed/engineered by multi-Grammy winning engineer Jon Fausty (Tito Puente, David Byrne, Gilberto Santa Rosa), and Grammy nominated engineer Matt Stein (Def Jamaica). Fused exposes the listener to the beauty, dynamics, and traditions of Middle Eastern music while incorporating English lyrics, as well as dance, pop and reggaeton.
The prominence of Middle Eastern rhythmic patterns and scales in Fused is remarkable because Richard Khuzami was raised in New York with minimal exposure to the Lebanese heritage of his family. Like any American teenager in the sixties, he absorbed the rock and pop music of his New York surroundings and taught himself to play drums. This all changed in 1978, when he had a chance encounter in Rochester (New York) with the renowned Turkish multi-instrumentalist, Omar Faruk Tekbilek. It was this meeting that triggered Khuzami’s interest in Middle Eastern percussion instruments and where his Lebanese background began to
play an important role in his identity and is what ultimately inspired Fused.
Over the course of his career, Khuzami mastered various other percussion instruments: darbuka, riq, bendir, and davul. (from the Balkans, Anatolia, the Middle East, and North Africa). He has studied with some of the masters of this genre (including Tekbilek) and has performed in Greek, Turkish and Arab-American ethnic communities throughout United States as well as with top international artists both domestically and overseas.
Khuzami’s experiences as a young adult listening to music in the 1960’s enforced his belief that music is a powerful means of providing a voice to those outside the mainstream. Music is an instrument for change. The recent decline in the public’s perception of the Arab community propelled Khuzami to once again use
music as an instrument for change. The pain he felt when faced by the misconceptions and disrepute of his Arab lineage helps to fuel Fused. It is Khuzami’s sonic bridge between the common ground of Eastern and Western cultures.
Khuzami called upon a wide array of his musical friends and heavyweights from Arab, Israeli, North African, Greek, Turkish, African, American and Latin backgrounds to contribute to this project. From the infectious Greek reggaeton track “Burn that Beat”, written by “it” reggaeton producer, Rameses, to the bewitching “Go with Me” featuring Moroccan Berber vocalist, Malika Zarra and ney
(reed flute) flutist Omar Faruk Tekbilek, the sonic and aesthetic diversity of Fused is intentional and quintessentially New York.
Fused may be understood as a musical reel of Khuzami’s life, whether it be “Wings of a Songbird”, a deeply personal and romantic ballad set in 9/8 and 6/8 time featuring the vocals of Anath Benais and the bouzouki (Greek stringed instrument) of Nikos Tatasopoulos or the funked up grooves of “Malfouf” featuring Tekbilek on ney and zurna, and Chedid on oud. Another highlight of this diverse album is “Nothing Lasts”, written by and featuring the vocal of musician and composer, Duke McVinnie. The graceful and spiritual composition illustrates Khuzami’s arrangement and production skills and captures the essence of his Middle Eastern heritage.
Author: World Music Central News Department
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