Tag Archives: Middle Eastern music

Arabesques Festival Announces 2019 Lineup

French event Arabesques Festival will take place September 10 to 22, 2019.  For this 14th edition, Arabesques will showcase many artists from the Arab world who incorporate their African roots and transform them: Aziz Sahmaoui, Oum, Alchimix, Imed Alibi and Gnawa Diffusion.

New collaborations reflect the creative vitality of the African continent, like the 3MA project bringing together the leading artists of Morocco, Mali and Madagascar: Ballaké Sissoko, Driss el Maloumi and Rajery.

Jordi Savall & Waed Bouhassoun

There will be an opportunity to break boundaries as with the creation of Soundjata (Sundiata Keita), a recovery of the Manding epic by storyteller Jihad Darwiche and Malian kora player Tom Diakite.

Additional shows include: The Whirling Dervishes of Damascus and the Al-Kindi Ensemble; Jordi Savall & Waed Bouhassoun, with the Orpheus XXI project; well-known world music acts: Marcel & Rami Khalife featuring Aymeric Westrich, Takfarinas, DuOud …

The festival will present a circus performance of the Acrobatic Group of Tangier with Halka.

The new Arab scene will be featured: Alchimix, Imed Alibi, Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda, Le Lanceur de dés Walid Ben Selim, and Faraj Suleiman Trio as well as the Count of Bouderbala’s One Man Show.

More at www.festivalarabesques.fr

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Beautifully-Sculpted Mongolian and Middle Eastern Fusion

Equus – Tailwind Home (Equus, 2019)

Equus is a multi-ethnic ensemble from the Sydney melting pot in Australia. On Tailwind Home, Equus treats the listener to a fascinating fusion of Mongolian music, Middle Eastern influences, jazz, blues and global percussion.

The Mongolian side appears in the form of the morin khuur, the Mongolian horse head fiddle, and throat singing. The album liner notes clarify that what you hear was actually produced by the human voice, there is no studio trickery.

Equus – Tailwind Home

The Middle Eastern component includes Turkish saz (lute) and ud (Arabic lute).

Equus showcases the versatility of the morin khuur, delivering exquisite melodies and rhythmic performances. Throughout the album, the throat singing vocals, the horse head fiddle, the saz and blues guitar provide alluring interplay.

Personnel: Bukhu Ganburged on morin khuur and vocals/throat singing; John Robinson on saz, ud, guitar and slide guitar; Peter Kennard on percussion, drums, nylon string guitar and dan moi (Vietnamese jaw harp); and Bertie McMahon on double bass, acoustic guitar and vocals.

Equus combine the best of Mongolia, the Middle East and the West with exquisite performances and staying power.

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Olcay Bayir’s Long Musical Road

Olcay Bayir – Rüya – Dream for Anatolia (Arc Music, 2019)

Rüya is the second album from Olcay Bayir, an Alevi Turkish singer-songwriter and composer based in London. She delivers a set of original and traditional poetic songs. Her band includes an international cast of musicians from Turkey, the UK, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Olcay Bayir – Rüya – Dream for Anatolia

Olcay Bayir has a captivating voice style with a blend of passion and energy that fits well with the contemporary world music style of the album. In terms of arrangements, Rüya combines finely sculpted traditional Turkish, Armenian and western instrumentation.

The lineup on the album includes Olcay Bayir on vocals; Giuliano Modarelli on guitar; Al MacSween on keyboards and piano; Aurel Qirjo on violin; Erdi Arslan on zurna, duduk, flute; Kostas Kopanaris on darbuka, bendir, percussion; Sam Vicary on double bass; Erdoğan Bayır on saz; Serkan Çakmak on kaval; Joost Hendrickx on drums; Adam Teixeira on drums; Mehmed Mert Baycan on bendir; Murat Sığırcı on bağlama; and Huw Bennett on double bass.

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Alluring Musical Journey to the Middle East

Various Artists – Journey to the Middle East

Various Artists – Journey to the Middle East (ARC Music, 2019)

Everyone knows that the tin with an assortment of cookies is just so much better than the tins with just a single kind of cookie. It’s just so much better to sample one’s way through dark chocolate covered cookies, white chocolate wafers, shortbread squares, bites of buttery Madeleine cookies or milk chocolate covered cookies with tiny pictures pressed into the chocolate than a beaten up bag of plain old snicker-doodles. That’s just fact.

Interestingly enough it can be the same way with music and our friends at ARC Music know this and have put a wonderful collection for listeners to nibble their way through on Journey to the Middle East. This compilation works its way through the music of Syria, Egypt, Persia, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon and Turkey. This glorious collection would delight the most seasoned listener or the newbie listener dipping an ear into the musical mysteries of the Middle East.

Listener get a dose of the dramatic right up front with the traditional song and dance from Cyprus titled “Cifdetelli” by the folk ensemble Yeksad. Journey to the Middle East turns hip with Hossam Ramzy and Phil Thornton’s “Planet Egypt” replete with hypnotic percussion and call-and-response interplay between mizmar, argul and kawala from the ARC release Planet Egypt.

Up next is “Aziz Jun” by Zohreh Jooya, originally from the ARC release Persian Nights. Fans will simply not want to miss “Midnight Sun” by Dastan Trio. This track is just simply impressive as Dastan musicians Pejman Hadadi, Hossein Behroozi-Nia, and Hamid Motebassem weave a web of improvisational mastery on barbat, setar and tombak that includes some spectacular percussion.

If that weren’t enough to lure listeners to Journey to the Middle East, there’s the sly and sassy “Iraqi Jazz” by Ahmed Mukhtar, the sweetly soulful “Mi Yitneni Of” by The Burning Bush, originally from the ARC release Folksongs from Israel. There’s also “Amaken” by Andre Hajj & Ensemble, the sultry vocals on the Syrian song “Hayyamatni” by Zein Al-Jundi and Armenian dance song “Karoun, Karoun/Nooneh” by Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian.

The Iranian percussionists of Zarbang have on offer “Cycling Feast” and it is a powerful Sufi trance, ancient Iranian call to the wild and percussion extravaganza all rolled into one. Journey to the Middle East keeps up the wild ride all the way to the end with a final track from Ensemble Huseyin Turkmenler called “Rumeli Karsilamisi.”

Journey to the Middle East is a whole assortment treats and everyone knows that’s the best.

Purchase Journey to the Middle East

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Refugees for Refugees, Pooling Global Musical Talent

Refugees for Refugees – Amina (Muziekpublique, 2019)

It’s become fairly standard to sum up a person’s life in a single moment. We catch a glimpse of the face as some person crosses a border, disembarks from a ship or jockeys for space in a refugee camp and we sum up that life.

There are some who would chalk up the refugee story by making it part and parcel to tragedy, war or desperate circumstances, while the less sympathetic would see an unwanted burden. But that’s never the whole story. We don’t see bread bakers, engineers, nurses or store owners where the family’s store has successfully existed and operated for and by generation after generation of the same family. We certainly don’t see the keepers of traditional craft work like carving or needlework or artists or musicians. We dismiss the back story of the refugee, that life before being uprooted, and perhaps the most precious of that life. It is with some sadness that I think we might be truly missing out.

It’s somewhere in here that Muziekpubique, a non-profit organization in Belgium, has seen this missed opportunity. Running a program promoting folk and world music by way of concerts, music lessons and a record label. This clever organization and label has teamed up musicians from Pakistan, Tibet, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Belgium to create Refugees for Refugees, resulting in a second release of the recording called Amina, in support of Muziekpublique and Cinemaximiliaan, a kind of cross cultural crossroads for refugees in a Brussels park where refugees can get information, find friends and even watch a movie or find a creative project.

Refugees for Refugees – Amina

While the good deeds of Refugees for Refugees might be incentive enough to support this project, the better bet is to support this wonderful music. Amina is full of delightful surprises and lush pleasures. Composing and arranging most of the music on Amina by members of Refugees for Refugees, this collaboration where one musical tradition is seamlessly enfolded in another, sometimes in improbable combinations, comes across as wholly organic.

Pooling the talents of Pakistan’s Asad Qizilbash on sarod, Tibet’s Dolma Renqingi on vocals, Syria’s Fakher Madallal on vocals and percussion, Tibet’s Kelsang Hula on dramyen and vocals, Afghanistan’s Mohammad Aman Yusufi on dambura and vocals, Belgium’s Simon Leleux on oriental percussion, Iraq’s Souhad Najem on qanun, Syria’s Tamman Al Ramadan on ney, Syria’s Tareq Alsayed Yahua on ud and Belgium’s Tristan Driessens on ud Amina flows free in that otherworldly space where musicians, regardless of their country or tradition, meet and commune, that place where all the good things in music happen.

Hooking listeners from the opening strains of “Perahan,” Amina dazzles with a heady mix of vocals, ud and ney. And, the tracks just get better with “Semki Molem” with its rich combination of deep male chorus against the soaring vocals of Aren Dolma. The ud laced “Qad Hijaz” is just as powerfully stunning as “Kesaro Sarko.”

Other goodies include the sarod and quanun rich “Punarjanm,” “Tonshak” with its scratchy throat singing against Tibetan vocals by Ms. Dolma and musical combination of sarod, dramyen, ud, ney and bendir and all the glorious quanum riches of “Shuq.” “Tales of the Mountain” will raise the hairs on the back of your neck it’s that good, just as simple pleasures of sarod and dholla will delight on “After the Dust.” And still the goodies just keep coming with “Rose Gate,” “Wasla Qudud Bayati” “Lhasa” and closing track “Chaman Chaman.”

With Amina, supporting a good cause never sounded so good.

Buy Amina

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Artist Profiles: Smadj

Smadj

Tunisian born, Parisian musician Jean-Pierre Smadja (Smadj) grew up listening to Middle Eastern, Brazilian, funk, soul, and folk music. Entering a jazz school at age 15 due to his intense interest in the guitar, Smadj’s musical development came to be characterized by transforming traditional jazz styles into eclectic sounds. This interest in the mechanics of making music led Smadj to pursue a degree in sound engineering, which led to a fruitful career as a recording & sound engineer for famous classical and folk musicians.

Releasing his first album in 1994, it was not until 2000 that Smadj became recognized on an international scale for his signature blending of acoustic and electronic sounds on Equilibriste, which would ascend on the European World Music Charts to the number 4 position. In 2002, Smadj joined fellow ud magician, French musician Mehdi Haddab, for a special project that would transport the oud to the 21st century in DuOuD. Supporting their triumph of an album with a 2 year world tour, the album also received 2nd place in the Best Album category at the prestigious BBC World Music Awards.

In 2003, Smadj joined master percussionist Burhan Ocal for and the Trakya All Stars featuring Smadj, and in 2005 he stepped behind the scenes to serve as artistic director for Burhan Ocal’s New Dream. Smadj continues making music in the city where east meets west, Istanbul.

Discography:

Equilibriste ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 1999)
New Deal ‎(Electric M.E.L.T., 2000)
Kırklareli İl Sınırı (Doublemoon, 2003)
Take It and Drive (Most Records, 2004)
Smadj Presents SOS (Doublemoon, 2005)
Trakya Dance Party (Doublemoon, 2006)
Selin ‎(MVS Records, 2009)
Hü (MVS Records, 2010)
Fuck The DJ (Smadj Records, 2012)
Spleen ‎(Jazz Village, 2015)
Solotronic ‎(Whirling Wolf, 2017)

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Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin at the Top of the January 2019 Transglobal World Music Chart


Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültek – Karin

The album Karin (Muziekpublique) by duduk player Vardan Hovanissian (Armenia) and saz virtuoso Emre Gültek (Belgium, with roots in Turkey) is the number one recording in January 2019 on the Transglobal World Music Chart.

“Karin” is the ancient Armenian name for the town of Erzurum, situated in what is now Turkey. It is the birthplace of Vardan Hovanissian’s grandfather, who was one of 200 survivors following the deportation of around 40,000 residents during the Armenian genocide. The recording is a tribute to the cosmopolitan period in Karin, which was a crossroads for the different cultures that existed along the Silk Road.

The top 10:

  1. Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültek – Karin – Muziekpublique
  2. Gaye Su Akyol – İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir – Glitterbeat
  3. Afro Celt Sound System – Flight – ECC
  4. Dhafer Youssef – Sounds of Mirrors – Anteprima
  5. SANS – Kulku – Cloud Valley
  6. Moonlight Benjamin – Siltane – Ma Case
  7. Urna Chahar-Tugchi featuring Kroke – Ser – Urna Chahar-Tugchi / UCT
  8. Ukandanz – Yeketelale – Buda Musique
  9. Vigüela – A Tiempo Real – ARC Music
  10. Bixiga 70 – Quebra-Cabeça – Glitterbeat
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Artist Profiles: Oriental Music Ensemble (OME)

The Oriental Music Ensemble (OME) was established by the National Conservatory of Music in Palestine in 1996. It has participated in numerous musical and cultural events locally and abroad.

The music pieces chosen by the group are selected for their artistic meaning and expression. Some of the pieces are so old that their composer is unknown and some are modern, composed by contemporary composers. Other pieces belong to the gypsy and folklore genres.

Every music genre has its own texture and Arabic music has its own texture as well. What characterizes Arabic Music is the Hetrophonic Texture, which is the essence and the soul of Arabic Music and its source of strength. Hetrophonic Texture is the ratio and the interrelationship between the “voices” of the instruments. Western classical musical ensembles play the same note in a direct manner whereas in Arabic music there is musical embellishment which comes down to a discrepancy in the speed of playing music between the different musical instruments. Each musician plays on his own, which contributes to speed differences on one side and to musical intertwining and harmony on the other. Here lies the strength of Arabic Music.

The instruments used by the OME are the same instruments used since hundreds of years. No change whatsoever occurred on them, meaning that no technological change was imposed on them, which make them authentic Arabic music instruments. Therefore, the buzuq is the same buzuq the great Arab musician – Al Farabi – from the 11th century described. No changes have been added to it. The same applies to the nay (Arabic Flute) and the oud (Arabic lute). The instruments are pure oriental instruments and they are locally hand-made by Palestinian music instrument makers.

Musicians:

Khaled Jubran: ud and buzuq
Suhail Khoury: nay and clarinet
Ibrahim Attari: qanun
Habib Shehadeh: ud
Ramzi Bisharaton: percussion

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Artist Profiles: Ozan Aksoy

Ozan Aksoy

 

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, vocalist, author and ethnomusicologist Ozan Aksoy was born in Turkey and currently lives in New York. As a young boy, growing up in Turkey, he first learned to play the saz (lute) from his father, and soon established an extraordinary scope as a multi-instrumentalist. He became proficient in many of the string, woodwind, and percussive instruments of the region, including saz, oud, ney, and various drums.

Ozan acquired a passion for the music of ethnic and religious minorities in his country including the Kurds, Armenians, Laz, and Alevi, among others.

Afterwards, in college, as an early member of the critically-acclaimed ensemble Kardeş Türküler (meaning Ballads of Solidarity), Ozan and his colleagues performed the songs of these unrecognized and suppressed peoples, pushing the boundaries of inclusion in Turkey.

 

Ozan Aksoy

 

During his time with Kardeş Türküler, the group released four albums and toured extensively throughout Europe, spreading their message of diversity and acceptance.

Ozan subsequently relocated to the United States to complete a doctorate in ethnomusicology and further develop his multicultural repertoire.

In 2018 he released his long-awaited first solo album, Ozan, with lyrics in Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian. Ozan performed most of the instruments and vocals on the album himself, although Ozan also features collaborations with acclaimed musicians, including Jeremy Brown, Ani Kalayjian, Richard Miller, and Shyam Nepali among others.

Ozan Aksoy has performed with various ensembles, including Columbia Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, CUNY Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, Ozan Aksoy Trio, Nour and Kardeş Türküler.

Discography:

With Kardeş Türküler:

Kardeş Türküler (Kalan Müzik, 1997)
Doğu – The East (Kalan Müzik, 1999)
Roj û Heyv (Kalan Müzik, 2000)
Hemâvâz (Kalan Müzik, 2002)

Solo:

Ozan (2018)

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