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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eastern Music? Yes, please...

It's someway hard to look at Middle East and Arabic culture and people without a minimum of... well... you know.
But, as an oud player and a long, long term arabic music lover, I'm right now listening to Anouar Brahem music and I see the truth .
He's possibly one of the best new musicians... coming from Tunis, he records since early '80s for Manfred Eicher's ECM.
Since maybe 5 years ago he began to approach arabic non-traditional music composing on piano and performing on oud, with accordion and piano - non played by himself - creating a very unique blend.
Mr. Brahem, who's in his fifties like myself, have been my hero since years ago I saw him alive with his trio... in these days ECM is giving a sale-price on his whole discography for Maestro Brahem's Anniversay ... which I promptly joined to cover some disks gap.

Anouar Brahem on ECM

Arabic music, ancient, deep, complex is so crystal clear coming from people whose proud heritage must be preserved and respected.
Anyone who visited - i.e. Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya - saw that it's not a matter of names, borders... the Arabic culture is everywhere, it's Mediterranean culture... Allah isn't Devil, like Jesus should not be the Devil for Muslims, and people feel same brotherhood from Atlantic Ocean to Aegean Sea.
The whole Western-music, the ancient music coming from Crusades time, which originated the classical music as we know and appreciate... all this, as chess and maths, have in the Middle-Eastern/Muslim/Arabic tradition their truest roots.
In the next centuries, these crazy times, wars, internal fights will possibly be remembered as times of change... but as I feel RIGHT NOW people of Arabic ancestors and heritage aren't all killers and terrorists, I hope that history and future will return the almost lost dignity to them, as Crusaders of 1.000 years ago didn't give to Christianity's violence of the past an eternal hell-shadow for eons to come.
Now, with the hope that Peace will win on Death and War soon, I guess that also "simply" listening to "this" music represent a little, peaceful act... a violin sonata isn't BETTER than an oud masterful variation (and viceversa).
The lesson comes - as always - from music... and as a picture tell us more than 100 words, a single tune says more than a book.

Anyone looking for a first Brahem's disk? Try first "Le Pas du Chat Noir", a masterpiece... then the last "Le Voyage de Sahar" and "Thimar" with Dave Holland - I'll see and listen him alive on next May - and John Surman...


"Thimar" is indeed a superb disk - I saw John Surman in concert twice, last year and - with Anthony Braxton - he is a true genius on saxes - and, ohhhh how I'd wish Brahem's on vinyl - last recordings have a smooth, yet detailed liquidness seldom heard... this eastern-flavoured Surman's soprano sax lead us to Dijvan Gasparjan's duduk, which, like the Mystere des Voix Bulgares, is music from outer space... in fact the Bulgarian female singers where included in the Humankind WunderKammer sent to Jupiter, with Relativity Einstein's formula et al... I wonder if any E.T. will appreciate them, one day... I definitely do...
Returning to Gasparjan's, which is fortunately on vinyl, too, also if slightly overproduced - i.e. the solo instrument is kind-of bigger than life with an unnatural reverberation, well... the music is so exotic and superbly moving... you simply enjoy the disc.
In a stream-of-consciousness, the above reminds me to the superb, fantastic record, a double limited edition produced by Manfred Eicher and Keith Jarrett, of Gurdijeff music arranged by De Hartmann... I already quoted this in the past, BUT make no evil I someway refresh this topic again;-)
Recorded in the '50s, the old analog masters have been relocated, restored and carefully, lovingly pressed by an ECM subsidiary... Gurdijeff was a complex XX century character, a mystic, a teacher, an Holy Man, he was a poor's poor and the richest tycoon, BUT he NEVER was a musician... so, he whistled ancient melodies - heard during his endless travelling from India to Persia, Turkey, Syria, etc. - to De Hartmann, a disciple of his doctrine and a NYC-born musician, who put them on paper and played at the piano.
The result is... awesome... melodies you think you already know... maybe the melodies are in our DNA, who knows?
Beside the hissy recording, the original De Hartmann's piano played music is far superior to the ECM's Gurdjieff homage Keith Jarrett recorded some years ago.
KJ's rendition simply doesn't have the same devastating power of the original.
Both recordings are worth a listen, indeed...
We definitely owe "something" to Middle Eastern and Arabic culture, don't you? ... and I'm not talking (again) only about the usual banality when pub-chatting about Arabic: they gave us (the Western culture...) the chess-game and the math;-)))
I guess I only, humbly, scratched the iceberg tip;-)

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