Tag Archives: Middle Eastern music

Artist Profiles: Ross Daly

Of Irish descent, born in England, Ross Daly traveled as a child with his family around the world and soon his deep interest in music emerged. His first instrument was the cello, which he studied in his childhood years in America. He later began studying the classical guitar in Japan at the age of eleven.

The late 1960s found him in San Francisco, where having experienced both the classical discipline and the air of freedom and experimentation of the time, he first encountered Eastern musical tradition which completely changed his life. Of particular interest to him was Indian Classical music which was destined to be the first non-western tradition that he actively studied. The following years found him traveling extensively studying a variety of instruments and traditions. At that time his main emphasis was on Indian and Afghani music.

In 1975 he traveled to Crete which he had previously visited for a short time in 1970 and 1972 where he had been greatly impressed by the lyra (a small pear-shaped upright fiddle which is the primary folk instrument of the island). After a six month period of wandering from village to village encountering local musicians, he settled in the town of Hania on the west of the island and began studying the Cretan lyra with its great master Kostas Mountakis.

This apprenticeship was to last for many years. During this same time he frequently visited in Turkey where he studied Ottoman classical music as well as Turkish folk music. After many years of intensive training in a variety of musical traditions, Ross Daly turned his attention largely to composition drawing heavily on the various sources that he had studied.

Ross Daly

Daly has released many recordings of his own compositions as well as of his own versions of traditional melodies that he collected during his travels. The island of Crete in Greece still provides a base for his personal and musical research as he travels around the world performing his music.

A virtuoso of Eastern musical instruments, he plays the Cretan lyra, Afghan rabab, lauto, kemence, sarangi, ud, saz and tanbur. A unique composer, Ross Daly, builds his compositions around the subtle but powerful interaction between the sound textures of the various traditions which he has studied.

In recent years, Daly has been performing and recording with composer and Cretan lyra master Kelly Thoma.

Discography:

Ονείρου Τόποι – Oneirou Topi (AEME, 1982)
Lavyrinthos (AEME, 1984)
Ross Daly (1986)
Anadysi (1987)
Elefthero Simio (1989)
7 songs and 1 Semai, with Spyridoula Toutoudaki (RCA, 1989)
Kriti 1, with Manolis Manassakis (RCA, 1989)
Pnoe, with Vassilis Soukas (1990)
Hori (1990)
The Circle at the Crossroads (1990)
Kriti 2, with Babis Chairetis aka “Vourgias”
Selected Works (Oriente Musik, 1991)
An Ki, with Djamchid Chemirani (RCA, 1991)
Mıtos (Network Medien, 1992)
Cross Current, with Djamchid Chemirani & Irshad Khan (1994)
Naghma, with Paul Grant, Bijan Chemirani & Nayan Ghosh (1998)
At The Cafe Aman (Network Medien, 1998)
Synavgia (1998)
Beyond The Horizon (2001)
Gulistan, with Bijan Chemirani (L’Empreinte Digitale, 2001)
Kin Kin (Music Box, 2002)
Music Of Crete (FM Records, 2002)
Iris (Protasis, 2003)
Mıcrokosmos (L’Empreinte Digitale, 2003)
Echo Of Time (2004)
Spyrıdoula Toutoudaki – Ross Daly / Me Ti Fevga Tou Kerou (2004)
Live At Theatre De La Vılle / Avec Le Trio Chemıranı (2005)
White Dragon (2008)
The Other Side (2014)
Tin Anixi Perimenes, with Vassilis Stavrakakis, Giorgos Manolakis (2015)
Osi Hara’Houn ta Poulia, with Evgenia Damavoliti-Toli (2016)
Lunar, with Kelly Thoma (2017)

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A Beautiful Journey Through the Musics of the Middle East

Mehdi Rajabian

Mehdi Rajabian – Middle East (Sony Music, 2019)

Middle Eastern is the latest album from Iranian multi-instrumentalist and composer Mehdi Rajabian. The album is dedicated to the rich musical traditions of the Middle East and focuses on various countries within the region. Mehdi Rajabian brings together classical forms from the Turkish, Persian and Arabic traditions, together with traditional music elements and western classical influences.

Mehdi Rajabian – Middle East

Middle Eastern is an exceptionally good, masterfully-constructed work featuring master instrumentalists using traditional instruments as well as piano and electric bass, along with superb arrangements and majestic cinematic passages.

Mehdi Rajabian invited a hundred musicians from twelve countries in the Middle East. Ironically, the album is not available in Iran due to the restrictions Rajabian is facing. He was imprisoned due to his musical activities. Some of the musicians who participated in the album were refugees fleeing from war or under other forms of stress.

Mehdi Rajabian appears on the album representing Iran. Guests include Arslan Hazreti (Turkey & Syria); Elnur Mikayilov (Azerbaijan & Turkey); Yousuf Alluwaihi (Oman), Tahira Jamal Albalushi (Oman); Alfares (Yemen); Wasim Qassis (Iraq & Palestine); Basem Hawwar (Palestine); Sakhnini Brothers (Palestine); Yarub Smarait (Jordan); Mohamed Saed (Egypt); Hussain Alhaddad (Bahrain); Ali Alolaiwi (Bahrain); and Omar Teymoorov (Tajikistan).

The cover of the album is a photo by Reza Deghati shot in Iraq.

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The Middle Eastern Aspect of Gordon Grdina

Gordon Grdina’s The Marrow – Ejdeha

Gordon Grdina’s The Marrow – Ejdeha (Songlines Recordings, 2018)

Ejdeha presents the Middle Eastern music side of Canadian guitarist and ud player Gordon Grdina. Here, Grdina focuses on the ud in a set of ud solos and improvisations supported by mesmerizing daf frame drum and acoustic bass, along with cello. The album combines remarkable improvisation with tight ensemble interplay.

The lineup on Ejdeha includes Gordon Grdina on ud; Mark Helias on bass; Hank Roberts on cello; and Hamin Honari on tombak and daf.

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Artist Profiles: Roman Bunka

Roman Bunka

Roman Bunka is one of the most prominent German ud players and guitarists. He was born in 1951. Bunka was a founding member of several of the most influential German rock bands, including avant-garde rock bands like Embryo and Aera. He impressed fellow musicians with his oriental style of guitar playing.

In 1976 he gave his first concert with Trilok Gurtu in India. While searching for a second stringed instrument more suited to his musical development in the direction of modal and microtonality, he discovered the Arabic lute, the fretless mother of the guitar, the ud.

His first solo album, Dein Kopf ist ein schlafendes Auto, recorded in 1980 (re-released by ATM-records) presented a blend of avant-garde rock with Oriental melodies. Released in the same period was the more jazz / rock fusion oriented album Live!, recorded in 1979 with the group Aera. After concerts with Okay Temiz in Turkey, Bunka chose Cairo as his musical refuge in the Arab world during the 1980’s.

Bunka was so immersed in Egyptian music that he even represented Egypt with the Nubian singer Mohamed Mounir as arranger and ud-soloist at the Mediterranean Culture Festival in 1992 in Nimes, France. With solo-concerts in Tunis (Festival de la Medina), Cairo, Damascus, Aleppo and Beirut as well as in Lanzarote with the group Vox and his performance at the Jazz Festival in Granada he was able to bring his vision of Arabic music closer to an interested World-music audience.

For the feature film Al Oud, directed by Fritz Baumann, which won the Gold Hugo at the 1992 Chicago International Film Festival, he was responsible for the musical direction and for composing the film music. While shooting, Bunka became involved with the Ensemble of the violin virtuoso Abdou Dagir from Cairo, with whom he made the CD Malik-a-Taksim. The films Warshots and Ende einer Reise by Heiner Stadler (Bavarian Film prize 1992) and the music to the film based on three short-stories by Paul Bodies entitled Halbmond by Frieder Schlaich and Irene von Alberti introduced him as a composer who uses his oriental style of sound collages to cleverly transport the drama.

Along with Grace Yoon, he produced several radio-plays for the Bavarian Radio, one of which, Tunguska-Guska, was awarded the Prix Futura 1993 by the BBC. Tunguska-Guska and their latest radio-play ”Earborn” are both available as CD.

A live-recording of his project Color Me Cairo featuring the Fathy Salama Ensemble from Egypt and Malachi Favors from the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago has appeared on the ENJA label and received the German Record-critics Prize. In 1998 he composed and recorded with the Spanish Flamenco guitarist ‘Tomatito” the music for the cinema movie Bin ich schön!?, directed by the famous German film director Doris Dörrie.

Ever the musical pioneer, in 1999 Bunka and his group, featuring Indian percussionist Ramesh Shotam and Japanese violinist Hiromi Nishida, performed at the first Oriental-Jazz-Festival in Beirut. To celebrate the new millennium, he participated with Mal Waldron, Jeanne Lee, Tri-O, Peter Dicke and Blixa Bargeld in Grace Yoon´s multimedia-event Illusion des Endes.

The year 2000 was launched at a live concert event in front of the Great Pyramids at Giza with Egyptian singer Mohamed Mounir.

Discography:

We Keep On, with Embryo (1973)
Surfin, with Embryo (1975)
Bad Heads, Bad Cats, with Embryo and Charlie Mariano (1976)
Aera Live, with Locko Richter, Klaus Kreuzeder, Lutz Oldemeier, Helmut Meier-Limberg, Freddy Setz (1979)
Reise, with Embryo (Schneeball, 1980)
Germanistan, with Dissidenten (1990)
Malik a Taksim, with Abdo Dagir (Enja, 1992)
From Spain to Spain, with Vox (Erdenklang, 1992)
The Jungle Book, with Dissidenten (Exil, 1993)
Color Me Cairo, with Malachi Favors and Fathy Salama (Enja, 1995)
Enshaallah, with Rahala (United One Records, 1997)
Freedom in Music, with Embryo (2008)
Abadan, with Hammond Schneider (2010)
40, with Embryo (Trikont, 2010)


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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.

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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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