Delightful Reem Kelani Live at the Tabernacle in London

Reem Kelani – Live at the Tabernacle (Fuse Records, 2016)

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that recordings of live performances are dynamic interactions with polite audiences only making their presence known by clapping at the very end of tracks, but Palestinian singer-songwriter, musician, broadcaster, educator and activist Reem Kelani’s live performance of Live at the Tabernacle proves not only live but lively.

With stories, audience sing-a-longs, impromptu performances and her own generous nature, Ms. Kelani holds sway over the audience on this two-CD set of her live 2012 concert out now on the Fuse Records label. Ms. Kelani proves just as captivating with her storytelling as she does with her powerful vocals and the ecstatic energy of Live at the Tabernacle leaks out on every track of the recorded version.

Backed by extraordinary musicians Bruno Heinen on piano, Tamer Abu Ghazeleh on oud, Ryan Trebilcock on double bass and Antonio Fusco on drums, percussion and bindir, Ms. Kelani’s vocals shine through on opening wedding song “Let Us In!” and the poignant, piano laced “Galilean Lullaby” that turns into a little sing-a-long with the audience.

“Sprinting Gazelle” comes with a little battle of the band with interplay of oud and bass, but it is “Songs of Parting” that blossoms into the unexpected as this medley of two songs takes off and includes an impromptu violin performance by audience member, Turkish musician and musicologist Cahit Baylav and added vocals by another audience member Cihan Ademhan.

Ms. Kelani and fellow musicians pay tribute to composer Sayyid Darwish with tracks like “The Porters’ Anthem” and “The Preachers’ Anthem.” These tracks are full, lush and explosively delicious blend of Middle Eastern and jazz. For those with a physical copy get full force of the lyrics as the booklet carries the English translation of these songs. To further her tribute to Mr. Darwish, Ms. Kelani include her own instrumental composition “1932” with her reading the poem “The Vinegar Cup” by Mu’in Bseiso over the music.

Live at the Tabernacle also includes gems like “The Ship Sounded Its Horn” by El-Hedi Guella and lyrics by El-Mouldi Zleiha and a performance of “Yarmouk” from documentary film “Les Chebabs de Yarmouk” by film director Axel Salvatori-Sinz. Live at the Tabernacle closes with the lively “Giving Praise.”

Proving she is just as affected by the audience, Ms. Kelani gives an explanation of the performance of “Giving Praise” in the liner notes, “This song is now a regular feature of my shows. I use it not just to give praise as in its original context, but also as an opportunity to feature the musicians in the band. That night at the Tabernacle, they were ‘in the zone,’ alongside the very spirited audience.”

Live at the Tabernacle is potently powerful and deliciously delightful.

Buy Live at the Tabernacle in North America

Buy Live at the Tabernacle in Europe

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.

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