Tag Archives: Middle Eastern music

Artist Profiles: Claude Chalhoub

Claude Chalhoub – Photo by Jorg Brodstedt

Born in 1974 in Lebanon into a family of musicians, Claude Chalhoub was introduced to the violin by his father who played the rebec. At the age of eight his brother gave him his first violin, and he started to play at home with the family, mostly improvising Arab music. He soon entered the conservatory, but as the war took hold of Lebanon, the conservatory was closed and Claude was forced to continue his studies on his own, discovering most of the technique of the violin by himself. A teacher later told him that he didn’t want to change that technique but refine it, because music is about the sounds and the colors of these sounds, and not about theoretical discussions about harmonies and techniques.

Obviously his self styled technique was good enough to meet high academic standards, because at the age of 18 he was offered the prestigious Queen Elizabeth scholarship which allowed him to continue his studies at the Royal College of Music in London. He studied with professor Grigory Zhisling and Rodney Friend and was introduced to a large repertoire of classical music, not only during his studying hours, but mainly by listening to all the symphonic orchestras he could watch.

Classical music was not the only repertoire he absorbed. In London he was exposed to many different culture. Claude listened to Indian music, African music, and Chinese music. He searched for his own sound. In his 4th year of studies this search led to the first recording session of his own music, Red Desert, combining the sounds of an Indian tabla with those of Arabic improvisation and a string octet.

For his final recital at the conservatory he chose a composition of his own, “Oriental Images”, which turned out to be a huge success. In 1997 he received an award for excellence. His public debut on the stage of St. John?s in London?s Smith Square led to a series of successful European concerts.

In 1999 Claude was invited to Weimar to participate in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The aim of this West Eastern Divan was to give young musicians from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, the Middle East and Germany the opportunity to study and play music together. Barenboim selected Claude to be the musical director of the orchestra. During one of the chamber concerts, Claude attracted so much attention for his improvisational music that he was signed to record his first album. In the summer of 2000 he started to work with producer and guitarist Michael Brook in the Sound Factory in Los Angeles. At he same time he was invited to participate in Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road project in Tanglewood (USA). The self-titled album, Claude Chalhoub features Pakistani singer Forroukh Fateh Ali Khan, the brother of the legendary Nusrat. It was released in the spring of 2001 in the USA and Germany, England, France, Italy and other territories followed in 2002/2003.

In 2003 Claude also started touring with his own quartet and plays concerts in several German cities, France and Italy . The Traumzeitfestival in Duisburg, Germany commissioned him to write music for a group specially gathered for this festival. The premiere in Duisburg featuring the Indigo string octett, Trilok Gurtu on tabla , Gilad Atzmon on clarinet and saxophone plus Claude?s band was received with standing ovations.

For his performance at the prestigious WOMAD Festival in Rivermead, UK, Claude invited another outstanding musician to join his band: Indian flute virtuoso Ronu Majumdar.

Claude has composed soundtrack for several films: ?Hollywood Buddah?, ?Persona non grata? (Oliver Stone’s documentary on the Middle East conflict.) He also continues to teach at the conservatory in Beirut.

Discography:

Claude Chalhoub (Teldec Classics, 2001)
Diwan (Herzog Records, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: AndraLaMoussia

AndraLaMoussia

AndraLaMoussia is a world music group based in Jerusalem. “AndraLaMoussia means chaos in ancient Hebrew and, like our name, our music reflects the diverse cultural reality we live in.”

AndraLaMoussia’s members mix many different styles and traditions into their music, abstracting acoustic and universal truths. “By mixing, along with others, Jewish and Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Sufi and Gypsy music, our sound resonates with the tension and confusion prevalent in our Middle Eastern culture. In today’s world cultural differences often lead to violent clashes, but we don’t think that this need be the case. Our aim with AndraLaMoussia is to accentuate the many different traditions and by doing so to create a moment of true dialogue and unity in a modern tradition“.

Ittai Binnun: Wind instruments (clarinet, ney, saxophones), baglama, vocal.
Dani Dromi: Guitars (classical, acoustic and electric), vocal.
Victor Ezus: Bass guitar, vocal.
Moshe Nuri: Percussion (darbukah, frame drums)
Uriel Sverdin: drum set, cajon.
Special guest: Nizar Rohana – oud.

Discography:

Andralamoussia (2005)
Music From the Streets of Jerusalem (2010)

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Artist Profiles: Filfel Gourgy

Filfel Gourgy

Filfel Gourgy was born at the beginning of the 1930s in Baghdad, Iraq, and died in 1983 in the courtyard of his home in Israel.In the course of his life he managed to leave his imprint on Iraqi music, proving beyond all doubt that he was one of the great standard bearers of the modern revolution which took place in the field.He was born in Baghdad in “Suq al-Hanoon” to a prosperous family of merchants.

While still a child, he became known among those close to him as possessing a rare poetic ability and the voice of an angel.As a youngster, he was taken in hand by Hassan Habka, a Muslim Iraqi singer. His classical and musical Muslim education bestowed on him the privilege of reading the Koran to millions of Arab viewers, on the eve of Ramadan, on Israel Television.

On 1950, due to the undermining of the harmonious relations which had existed between Jews and Muslims in Iraq and the “Farhood pogroms”, Gourgy was no longer able to conceal his Jewish identity, hitherto kept secret. He was smuggled into Iran in the dead of night. Thus manifestations of hostility effectively cut short the young musician’s career in Iraq.

After spending some six months in Iran, he immigrated to Israel. In no time at all he became famous, gaining a following among Jews from Iraq. His name also became known among the Muslims in Iraq and Jordan who listened to the Voice of Israel in Arabic.

Filfel Gourgy wrote the words and composed the melody for most of his songs, the majority of them universal songs, in both literary and spoken Arabic, even updating ancient folk songs.

Without a doubt, Filfel Gourgy occupies a place in the pantheon of Arab song and music, as an outstanding artist: his exceptional vocal talent and musical achievements assure him of an undisputed position among the greats.

To this day, Filfel Gourgy is considered as one of the inheritors of the Arab classical singers such as Farid el Atrash, Umm Kulthum and Muhammad Abed el Waheb.

The World Is Happy is the first collection of his songs released by a reputable commercial company.

Discography:

The World Is Happy (Magda)

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Artist Profiles: Bustan Abraham

Bustan Abraham

Bustan Abraham was founded in 1991. It was a highly acclaimed Jewish and Arab ensemble from Israel, who took the listeners on a musical exploration of the land they share and the traditions – Eastern and Western – that they were combining in a unique form of instrumental music.

Multi-instrumentalists Zohar Fresco led the band on percussion: darbuka, daff, bendir, zarb and conga drums, plus cymbals, bells, rattles, shakers, sea shells, bird whistles, chimes, and “found objects.”

Discography:

Bustan Abraham (Nada Productions, 1992)
Pictures through the painted window (Nada Productions, 1994)
Abadai (Nada Productions, 1996)
Fanar (Nada Productions, 1997)
Hamsa (Nada Productions, 2000)
Ashra, compilation (Nada Productions, 2001)
Live concerts (2003)

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Artist Profiles: Emil Zrihan

Emil Zrihan

Emil Zrihan, cantor of the synagogue in Ashkelon kept the Judeo-Andalusian and folk traditions of his mother country Morocco alive in his heart. Following the immense success on stage here at last is the international debut album by the man nicknamed “the voice of the mocking bird”.

The impressive vocal range and power of Zrihan’s counter tenor express both the emotional intensity of North African religious songs and the vivacity of Andalusian music. His fascinating ‘mawals’ (improvisations) are subtly enhanced by the ud, violin, accordion and darbuka which repeat the themes with spirit and gusto. The upbeat rhythmic tempo with its Mediterranean flavor alternates with passages imbued with the languor of the Orient, a mix which evokes the family gatherings, the songs and the dances of the Sephardic culture.

The guest of honor on Zrihan’s recent album, Baldi Olier, adds the sensitivity tempered with pride of his guitar playing style which stems from the purest of flamenco tradition. The producer Yossi Fine has managed to capture the strength of Emil Zrihan’s extraordinary voice, adding bass and both African and Brazilian percussion to the traditional instruments, thereby conferring on this album a sound which is at once profound and elegant, light and playful and which invites the listeners to move and shake, to click their fingers, to clap their hands, and inevitably to dance.

Emil Zrihan, the Moroccan Nightingale, was acclaimed as the surprise of the World Music Expo, Womex 1997. A performer who captivates audiences with his exceptional contra-tenor voice and stage presence. The voice of Emil Zrihan, who stamped a note of deep satisfaction on everything that happened at the Womex Festival, with his holy songs from North Africa and tonal Arabic-Andalusian music.

Discography:

Ashkelon (Piranha, 1999)
L’ Youm Dima (NMC, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Aynur

Aynur

Aynur Doğan, better known as Aynur, was born in 1975 in Çemisgezek, in the province of Tunceli. She attended ASM Music School in Istanbul, where she studied singing with Begüm Erdem and Askin Metiner. In 2002, her first album, Seyir was released.

Besides taking part in concerts and albums of artists and groups such as Metin-Kemal Kahraman, Grup Yorum, Anjelika Akbar and Orient Expressions, she also performed vocals for television and cinema.

She performed at home and abroad in both Kurdish and Turkish. Her album Keçe Kurdan – Kurdish Girl was released by Kalan Music in 2004.

The product of nearly a year’s effort, with arrangements by such master musicians as Aykut Gurel, Serdar Ataser, Kemal Sahir Gurel and Burhan Bayar, Aynur’s Keça Kurdan presented a combination of Turkish and Kurdish folk songs, as well as new compositions. Accompanied by a host of fine musicians, the album was notable for its original arrangements.

With her broad vocal range, Aynur performs both folk songs and improvisations, and her album has proved capable of deeply moving audiences.

Rising quickly to the top of Kurdish music albums, Keça Kurdan received a significant amount of attention, both in the Turkish and world press.

Attaining great success through the song she sang in Kurdish in Yavuz Turgul’s film Gönül Yarasi, Aynur became the first to sing a Kurdish song live in a film shot in Turkey. She was also featured in Fatih Akin’s 2005 documentary film Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul.

In May 2005, Aynur received great interest when she performed in various cities of Holland with the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, considered the finest wind ensemble in the country. Later, she gave three concerts in the Festival of Turkey held in Spain in July 2005, alongside such artists as Aksu, Erkan Ogur, Kardeş Türküler, Mercan Dede and Burhan Ocal.

Aynur

Aynur also performed one song in Kardeş Türküler’s album Bahar (Kalan Muzik, 2005), and two songs in Mikail Aslan’s album, Miraz (Kalan Muzik, 2005). Her album Nûpel was released from Kalan Music at the end of 2005.

Aynur appeared in the 2015 documentary film “The Music of Strangers” about Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.

On March 16, 2017, Berklee College of Music’s Berklee Mediterranean Music Institute awarded Aynur with the Master of Mediterranean Music 2017 in recognition of her contribution to the preservation of Kurdish folk oral traditions, performing the traditional repertoire and combining it with other modern western styles, opening a new path to this Mediterranean style. Aynur’s faithfulness to traditional Kurdish music, and her perseverance in overcoming big challenges to follow her artistic path, make her an important example for other female artists seeking a creative voice in the Mediterranean music scene.

To hear Aynur’s voice is to hear the transformation of all the layers of human joy and suffering into one sound. It reaches so deep into our soul, tears into our hearts, and then we are for one moment, joined as one. It is unforgettable!” — Yo-Yo Ma

Discography:

Seyir (Türküola Müzik, 2001)
Keçe Kurdan – Kurdish Girl (Kalan Music, 2004)
Nûpel (Kalan Music, 2005)
Rewend (Sony Music, 2010)
Hevra – Together (Sony Music Classical, 2013)
Hawniyaz (Harmonia Mundi Latitudes, 2016)

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Captivating Sounds from the Greek Melting Pot

Loxandra Ensemble – In Transition (Dalit-Music, 2018)

Loxandra Ensemble, one of the finest world music acts from the eastern Mediterranean, has released a flavorful album titled In Transition. The Greek band delivers a superb mix of traditional Greek music, Turkish influences, Gypsy swing, Sephardic, salsa, Middle Eastern and Balkan sounds.

The band features an outstanding, delightful vocalist Ria Ellinidou and world class musicians who use a wide range of musical instruments from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and beyond.

Loxandra Ensemble includes new members. The album lineup includes Nikos Angousis on clarinet and vocals; Foibos Apostolidis on riqq, cajon, darbuka and davul; Makis Baklatzis on violin, lead and backing vocals; Ria Ellinidou on lead vocals; Thanasis Koulentianos on kanun and backing vocals; Loukas Metaxas on acoustic and electric bass and backing vocals; Dimitris Panagoulias on darbuka and riqq; and Kyriakos Tapakis on oud.

 

 

In Transition is a beautifully-crafted album that illustrates the fascinating multiple musical influences that meet and combine in the eastern Mediterranean.

Buy the digital download or the CD from www.dalit-music.com

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Artist Profiles: Haig Yazdjian

Haig Yazdjian – Photo by C. Kissadiel

Haig Yazdjian was born of Armenian parents in Syria and has been living in Greece for the last 20 years. In Syria he discovered the enchanting elements of Eastern music, and took up the ud as the means to express an inner undiscovered domain. Soon, he became extremely popular as an oud soloist, and one of the most characteristic vocalists. The release of his first album, Talar (that means ethereal, lively and tender, in Armenian), in 1996, accelerated his popularity, but more important chartered him amongst the most promising composes of his generation. Yazdjian was hailed for the unique ways he was blending diverse elements of the eastern Mediterranean music traditions vested in the practice of considering tradition as a live creative force. All that in a rather, ethereal or even interminable fashion as the title of Talar alludes to.

Two years later, the release of his second solo album Garin, and the CD single ‘Gift’ were received with unanimous acclamation from audiences and critics alike. In addition to a critical and commercial success, Yazdjian has met the recognition and respect of some of the most important figures of Greek music that he has collaborated with. In the summer of 2000 Yazdjian released Beast on the Moon, an album that signified a new expressive turn in his music quest. In 2001 at a point of expressive and performance maturity, he released Yeraz, a dreamworld for fellow listeners.

Over the years Yazdjian has collaborated with the most prominent Greek composer and singers as well as soloists of international stature. Among them, Nikos Xydakis, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Savina Yiannatou, Maria Farantouri, Dimitra Galani, Elli Paspala, David Lynch, Michalis Nikoloudis, Dave Spilain, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jivan Gasparyan, Theodossi Spasov, Glen Velez and Kudsi Erguner.

His first album was Beast on the Moon. Yazdjian played on Loreena McKennitt’s 2006 album An Ancient Muse.

Selected Discography:

Beast on the Moon
Talar (Libra Music, 1996)
Nazeli, with Jivan Gasparyan Quartet (Libra Music, 1998)
Garin ‎(Libra Music, 1998)
Το Κτήνος Στο Φεγγάρι ‎(2000)
Yeraz ‎(Lyra, 2001)
Amalur, with Eleftheria Arvanitaki and Ara Dinkjian ‎(Libra Music, 2007)
The Greek Folk Instruments: Outi (FM Records, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: Andreas Kapsalis Trio

Andreas Kapsalis

Andreas Kapsalis is a Greek American born in Illinois. The Andreas Kapsalis Trio represents the perfect alliance of eight-fingered guitar virtuosity, outstanding melodic themes and rhythmic variations on percussion. Kapsalis’s solo guitar orchestra (his guitar playing often sounds like three guitarists not one) and the pulse of African and Middle Eastern drums, played by versatile percussionists Jamie Gallagher and Darren Garvey, define their previously unexplored style, often described as Tribal Mediterranean.

Elements of Americana, flamenco, Greek, African and Arabic music are part of the mix, each receiving equal time. Recently, Kapsalis scored his first film, the documentary Black Gold, which premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

Discography

The Andreas Kapsalis Trio (2004)
Original Scores (2008)
Guitar Duo, with Goran Ivanovic (2010)
Blackmail, with Goran Ivanovic (2013)
Anastasi (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Sawt El Atlas

Sawt El Atlas

Sawt El Atlas (Voices of the Atlas) was fronted by the warm voices of singers Kamel and Mounir. The ten-piece band combined Middle Eastern, rai, reggae, funk and Latin beats. The musicians were genuine party animals and had a gift for sweeping audiences off their feet.

Sawt El Atlas’ album Donia drew increasingly deeply on their multicultural inspiration. As Sawt El Atlas liked to say: “In Morocco, they look on us as French people, and in France, as Moroccans. Although we have two cultures, we don’t belong to either country specifically.”

The original line-up of Sawt El Atlas consisted of three brothers from each of two families, the Mirghanis (originally from Southern Morocco) and the El Habchis (from Casablanca). They were later joined by four other musicians. Lead singers Kamel and Mounir and their brothers grew up in the suburbs of Blois in the center of France.

Sawt El Atlas started to hit the road in the 1990s when they were just 12, and played at many festivals in France, Holland and Germany and supported a number of major artists on tour. In 1996, after more than 200 gigs, they released their first CD, titled Généraliser (Generalising), produced by Daniel Jamet former member of Mano Negra. It was a lively album swept along by its Arabic-French lyrics, which were deliberately positive even when they attacked the precarious nature of everyday social integration:

Whether you’re on the dole, a street sweeper or an engineer,
Whether you’re white, black, or Arab,
Remember there’s no difference, no preference: here, we dance…

In 1999, Sawt El Atlas signed to Sony’s Small label and they released a firmly mature album titled Donia, mainly sung in Arabic, but with some French too. They began to record Donia in Paris, in the studio of Sodi, the producer of Les Negresses Vertes, Femi Kuti and IAM, but it was completed in Cairo, the crossroads of modern Arabic music where a true oriental sound can be obtained using local instruments such as the Kawala flute, ud, qanun, Egyptian percussion and Egypt’s legendary string formations.

Donia was mixed by Carmen Rizzo who has worked with Prince, Khaled and Zebda among others. The generous nature of singer-songwriters Kamel and Mounir, combined with their brothers’ talent and the background of the other musicians to produce a perfect blend of Middle Eastern roots and modern groove. This time, the album’s lyrics focused on the world’s most universal theme: love. Donia’s twelve songs are a hymn to love, respectively devoted to mothers, couples, people in general, life and God. All were written as original pop songs: the radio-friendly first single Ne Me Jugez-Pas (Don’t judge me), the Middle Eastern jungle of Ness featuring Natacha Atlas, a long-time friend of the band, the flamenco leanings of Andalucia, the groove-reggae of Datna and the eponymous track, Donia.

Sawt El Atlas said: “The album is dedicated to people who are short of exoticism and warmth.”

Discography:

Generaliser (Rue Bleue, 1996)
Donia (Sony, 1999/Tinder Records, 2001)

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