Reem Kelani’s Vocals, a Force of Nature

Reem Kelani – Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora

Reem Kelani

Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora (Fuse Records, 2006)

The opening notes from “As Nazarene Women Crossed the Meadow,” Reem Kelani’s Sprinting Gazelle, are a shock to the system as if Kelani was intent on blowing the listener off the face of the earth with a voice from the heavens. It seems almost impossible that this is the Palestinian singer’s debut album, as Kelani’s depth of soul vocals stir the very air and prickle the hairs on your arm.

Setting traditional Palestinian folk songs and verse from poets like Mahmoud Darwish, Rashid Husain and Mahmoud Salim al-Hout to her own compositions, Kelani has poured the Palestinian soul of loss, longing and lullaby into some hauntingly spare compositions, topped off with her strong vocals.

The song “The Cameleer Tormented My Heart” opens with the lonely sounds of Oli Hayhust’s double bass and cowbells, so when Kelani adds her vocals the listener is utterly entranced. Kelani’s soothing vocals on “Galilean Lullaby” are set off by Zoe Rhaman’s piano work, Idris Rahman on clarinet, Hayhurst on double bass, Reem Kelanie on riqq and Patrick Illingworth on drums. The CD just gets better and better with tracks like “Yearning” and “Yafa!” with their Middle Eastern roots and some lazy touches of jazz throughout.

For a debut CD, Reem Kelani’s music rains down pleasure, but it’s her voice that must surely be a force of nature.<
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Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.