The New Year starts by dancing: that’s a nice sign! We’re not just proposing an oriental music record, but there’s also a DVD included that teaches this dance, which is witnessing a growing success in Europe! If you want to dance to other rhythms we also propose some lovely sirtakis from Greece. We also asked Santa Claus for Hayed Adad’s latest CD, a revival of the good old Andalusian song; the double CD by Djivan Gasparyan, the star of Armenian doudouk; and “Indian Lounge” a “best of” today’s Indian music. From London to Lahore, passing by Erevan: a great trip to start the year!
Babelmed’s latest favourite
INDIAN LOUNGE (The Rough Guide to…), Worldmusic
From the "The Rough Guide" collection, here’s an excellent selection of today’s best Indian music! Its relation to the Mediterranean? Most of the Arabic music stems from Indian music, as explained by the late but great musicologist Antoine Goléa: “India, represents the foundation of the musical evolution in the Orient, together with Iran” ( La musique de la nuit des temps aux aurores nouvelles , Ed. Leduc, 1977, p.21). Our ears had already discovered this close link between Arabic and Indian music: slow and melancholy rhythms, voices infinitely modulated in lengthy laments, or on the contrary frenzied rhythms of dancing percussions, animal trots through desert crossings, and lots of improvisation characterise these two oral traditions, which also keep memory of the classical forms… DJ Ritu, a BBC Radio reporter of Indian origins is also the manager of three London clubs. He has selected the best artists of the sub-continent… from Birmingham to Lahore! If Paris has now become an important centre– if not the capital – of North African music, London is definitely today’s capital of indo-pakistani music. Next to the Pakistani star Atif, you’ll find the mind-blowing Hindustani vocal soloist Debashish Bhattacharya, the artists of Apache Indian, or Birmingham’s DJ Bally Sagoo, Britain’s first Anglo-Indian pop group to produce hits outside England. The mix of modern sounds of this CD – electronic music is often combined with sitar – together with the strange convergences between techno and India’s mesmeric music, eloquently prove how India has embraced modern times, and cannot be just summed up into hordes of computer specialists or young hip consumers, dressed Western style.
BELLYDANCE CAFÉ (The Rough Guide to…), World Music
In the same collection, we’re transported into the popular celebrations and cabarets of Cairo or Damascus, in an oriental dance atmosphere! And even if the so-called “belly” dance hasn’t always had a good reputation in Arabic capitals, and belly dancers have often been considered – and still are - women of little virtue rather than real artists, the music that accompanies “Oriental dance” is highly technical: as in Europe today for artists that accompany singers, Arabic cabaret musicians are often outstanding. As for any other dance, rhythm is essential, and percussion plays a key role in this case. The extraordinary tabla percussion solo of the Egyptian Mokhtar al Said is an excellent example.
The sinuous melodies of violins and clarinets are a perfect complement to the hip movements of the belly dancers, and the band of Turkish Selim Sesler gives us a more languorous version of this dance. Cairo and Damascus take the lion’s share of Oriental music life, especially now that Baghdad is out of the scene. Between one dance and the other, as in real cabaret, you’ll find songs like the famous “El Atlal" by Oum Kalthoum, interpreted by The Nazareth Orchestra, or a Greek “mikrasiatika” song, i.e. Middle East, which reminds us that Greece, which some consider solely European, also has an Oriental streak…To conclude, this CD offers more than an hour of delightful music, to dance or simply listen to, for the pleasure of it.
ORIENTAL DANCE LESSONS, by Ottilie (DVD), Evasion
Speaking of dance, if you’re dying to learn Oriental dance but haven’t got the time to follow a course, here’s a very well conceived DVD that will lead you, step by step, from the basic movements to complete dances, by levels. Ottilie is a French artist who, after having practiced dances in various countries, fell in love with Oriental dance. She now teaches it and has created performances…which she is currently taking to Arabic countries with her company, named “El Hayet”! What’s so surprising about that? Don’t Japanese and Chinese artists come to Paris or Vienna to learn how to play Mozart or Beethoven? This DVD offers both a French and an English version, if you want to make a gift to an English girlfriend: Oriental dance is even more hip in London than in Paris!
HAYET AYAD, Jardins d'Orient, Hayet Ayad prod.
Hayet Ayad is a self-taught artist with an astonishing life. Born in France from Algerian parents, she grew up in Strasbourg and left school at 15: the institution then suggested she should find a clerk’s job as “she was incapable of doing anything else”, she tells us. Between one lousy job and another, Hayet takes a Tai-Chi course and there, the professor asks her to produce a sound. Hayet hears her voice for the first time and feels like “a bow bracing” in her body, and discovers her vocation: she will sing. Hayet then launches herself in the world of ancient Andalusian music – medieval chants, often religious ones, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish – and starts singing in the streets and in churches. Several years have passed and Hayet Adad is now a successful artist who performs in various festivals around the world. She has also participated to several film sound tracks and they even shot a documentary on her. She has just finished producing her own record, recorded during her concert in November 2006. Accompanied by José Maria Cortes on the ‘oud and beating the rhythm of her singing with a simple drum, Hayet recalls the spirit of the wandering troubadours of the past, who carried no amplifiers or synthesizers, but just their voice and one or two musicians to play with…And you’ll be literally enthralled, as we were, by the a capella songs like "Wach'b Qali": it’s like listening to an immemorial song, that has reached us, unchanged, after centuries of history. Some songs are such pure vocal gems (listen to her version of "Baytûn Marara"…), that Hayet proves, once again, that the bare voice is still the most beautiful instrument in the world, despite technological progress…
DJIVAN GASPARYAN, The soul of Armenia, Network
The German label Network, which has been offering us excellent double CD boxes (remember “Desert Blues” for Africa…), pays homage to Djivan Gasparyan, who made the West discover the Armenian oboe, the doukouk, just like Ravi Shankar brought Indian music to Europe. Born in 1928 to a poor family in a still Soviet Armenia, little Djivan loved going to the cinema, where silent films where accompanied by… a small doukouk orchestra! At eleven he receives his first instrument and at 19 he plays his first solo concert. In 1956 he’s awarded “Best Musician of Armenia”. But he owes his Western success to Brian Eno, who discovers an LP of Gasparyan during a trip to Moscow in 1989. The record is called “Popular Armenian Tunes” and he manages to re-publish it under his own label “Opel”. It’s a success: world tours, film sound tracks – the artist signs about thirty of them. In 2002, WOMEX, the biggest world music festival bestows the “Womex Life Achievement Award" to Djivan Gasparyan: it’s the highest tribute! If you still aren’t acquainted with this Armenian music, this is one of the best ways to discover it.
20 BEST SIRTAKIS from Greece, The Athenians, ARC Music
Last but not least, more dance, but this time coming from Greece with this album of Greek dances. If everyone knows the sirtaki, who knows that this dance, which today is considered as “typically Greek”, was created for the film “Zorba the Greek” in 1964, by mixing the slow and fast versions of the hasapikos dance? And who knows the other names of Greek dances: the Kalamatianos (from Kalamata), the Pentozali (from Crete), the Zeimbekiko (from Cyprus), the Misirlou (from the word Misr, Egypt, proving once again that arts travel freely)? The artists of The Athenians ensemble, created in 1977 (the late Manolis Charokopos, Antonis Gialeles and Kostas Smirnios) are multi-instrumentalists; they play bouzouki, baglama, guitar or piano. Based in Germany, they have given many concerts in Central Europe. A light record, like the summer breeze on a Greek island, to enlighten your winter!