Gilded Serpent presents...

Where There is Music, There is Dance.

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Ahla Andalusi
40 Days & 1001 Nights

Review by Amina Goodyear
posted December 15, 2010

Music is my drug of choice.
It’s my addiction.
Dance is my high.
It’s a result of my habit.
Dance takes me places. Music is my vehicle.
I’ve read of people, especially modern dance choreographers, who transcend the music and are able to envision dance and forms without it.
I cannot.
I cannot envision dance without music. The two require each other.
I can play music and dance in my head.
And I can dance and play music in my head.
If there is music, there is dance
and if there is dance, there is music.

Whenever I play music I really do see "visions of sugar plums dancing in my head". The music will transport me to far-off places including entering the time-machine and it will instill various types of emotion. I think I have ADD or ADHD. If I need to concentrate on a task or read, I don’t like to have music travelling through my veins. If music is playing, I need to dance.

Of course some music brings on a greater degree of high than others. And some music is more danceable in my head than in my body. In this case, I am speaking of two albums of music that both encourage my addiction and enable me to lose my mind in my body.

These two albums, Ahla Andalusi and 40 Days & 1001 Nights,  really do transport me as in a time machine to other times, other lands and other ecstasies. They both seem to have been composed in another time and another place. There seems to be no modern crossover influence in that the music is acoustic and takes advantage of the musicianship and instrumentation of yesterday with no globalization of today.

They are islands of beauty and as the two albums dance in my head, I am lost in a dream of visions – colors, light and dark, pure and hazy, and smells of incense and flowers wafting in the breeze of temperate temperature which encircle me and the choreographies of my mind.

Now to the reality of the albums:

Ahla AndalusiAhla Andalusi by Maher Kamal

Nesma of Spain has done it again. She has produced a wonderful spellbinding album featuring Egyptian composer, musician and vocalist Maher Kamal in Ahla Andalusi. The stringed instruments are violin, viola, cello, contrebass and kanun. The nay and kawala along with the voices provide the spiritualism of the heavens and the riq, tabla, duf and dahola give us the heartbeat. I thought I heard an oud also, but it is not listed.

Initially when I heard this album I was first struck with the beauty of the stringed section and then I heard the magic of the voice of Maher Kamal.

In San Francisco we are privileged to have a wonderful musician and singer, Elias Lammam,  whose velvet voice brings to mind Abdel Halim. At times I wonder whose voice I enjoy more – Elias’ or Abdel Halim’s. That’s a hard decision for me to make. Well – then I heard Maher Kamal’s. He doesn’t sound as much like Abdel Halim as he does Elias Lammam. To me this is a plus.

Besides the musical compositions in this album, this haunting, heavenly voice alone which is speaking, as if to me alone, is reason enough to own this album.

Since albums are a vehicle to convey the musical message, in this case, that is a good thing. Although the sepia-toned Moorish artwork and thought behind the also sepia-toned booklet- sized multi-lingual (Spanish, French, English and Arabic calligraphy) 32 paged liner notes are very artfully done and well-thought out, there seems to have been no thought behind the phrase "Can the reader see or read the written material?"

Even with reading glasses perched on nose, while squinting and holding a magnifying glass in hand in the daylight and under a bright light, I had enough trouble reading the lyrics and translations that I did not even want to bother to do so.

In the case with Nesma’s liner notes – maybe "less is more" should be the case. However the liner notes are important and very informative and I hope your eyes are better than mine.

Ahla Andalusi is an album that moves and dances in the genre of the muwasha (muwahshahat pl.) – poetry with music and vocalisation. Originated in Moorish Spain (about the time of the crusades -around the tenth century) the muwashahat to me is poetry in motion. I belong to an Arabic choir, Aswat (Voices), that strives to preserve and present all types of classical Arabic music and song. Our favorite pieces and probably the most difficult to perform are the muwashahat. The poetry is incredibly beautiful, allegorical and visual. It is interwoven and interconnected with the musical phrasing and rhythms. I play in the percussion section and many of the rhythms are odd time signatures that change. In playing the muwashahat it can become easy to groove into the rhythm but then just as easily the flow will take a gentle turn that takes you on another path.

In listening to Ahla Andalusi you will experience this gentle flow nudging you from one phrase, rhythm or mode to another in a complex uncomplicated manner. You will be transported from one time and place to another – but all will be timeless and without a specific place in mind.

You will ask yourself, "Is this music Arabic? Is it Egyptian? Is it Spanish? I hear the rumba rhythm, I hear maqsoum." Well, it is Andalusian and it is all of the above. It is tradition and it is a blend of the historical and contemporary music and poetry from the 10th, the 11th, the 12th centuries and even a bit of the 21st century.

"al andalus, the Eternal Paradise"
Poem by Ibn Jafaya de Alzira (1058-1139)
Maqam (mode): Ajam
Rhythm cycle: Rumba

"Oh Andalusian, what fortune!
Water, shade, river and trees
The paradise is just yours
If I must choose. I’ll choose it.
Don’t be afraid to go to hell.
Nobody goes to hell after heaven."

Rating: 4 zils
Zil Rating- 4

Tamalyn's 40 Days CD40 Days & 1001 Nights Bellydance Music for Tamalyn Dallal by the Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club of Zanzibar

A short time ago my friend Dr. Barb fulfilled a dream to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  When she returned with stories and photos, she also returned with some fabulous music she found. It was music from Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an island just east of Tanzania which is situated in the southeastern portion of Africa. Dr. Barb, who used to be known as Bahia, was a dancer from New York. We worked together at the Bagdad and the Casbah in San Francisco during North Beach’s heyday in the 70’s. We’ve maintained a friendship fueled by our love of all types of music and dance but especially Arabic music.

During this time at an informal music practice, nay player Hector Bezanis mentioned hearing some incredibly beautiful and sweet music from Zanzibar. We compared music and all comparisons led to the Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club of Zanzibar. This friend was also a member of Aswat (Arabic classic music ensemble and choir based in San Francisco) and eventually Aswat added a piece from Zanzibar to its repertoire. This piece was Ifkar and we’ve used it to open at least two of our concerts.Location of Zanzibar

Meanwhile, dancer Tamalyn Dallal was undergoing a project called 40 Days and 1001 NightsThis project was to become a book, a musical documentary DVD, a dance performance, and a CD. In the DVD, she visits 5 Islamic countries and spends 40 nights in each country between 2005 and 2006. The island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean was one of countries she visited.

Zanzibar, known as the Spice Island, has been home to many foreign traders. The earliest settlers seem to have been the Arabs including the Egyptians, with many visiting and moving there since the 8th century.  Being an island and isolated from many distractions, these settlers brought their culture and music which soon melted into their African culture and music and became part of the inherent music and culture of Zanzibar.

Tarab, which can involve both musician, dancer and audience, comes from the emotions involved and memories evoked from the music.

Tamalyn Dallal says,
"Taarab is a synthesis of classical Egyptian and East African music. Using elaborate orchestrations and sung in Swahili, Zanzibaris relax while listening to the lyrics about love… Ikhwani Safaa was the first musical "Taarab" club in Zanzibar. Established in 1905 their musical style derives it’s name from the Arabic word "Tariba", meaning to be moved, or enchanted by song. "

Listening to – and dancing to – 40 Days & 1001 Nights will certainly take you to other places and times. You will be moved and enchanted and memories that you never had will appear in your mind and body.

The instruments played are the violin, kanun, ney (flute), double bass, accordion, rika (tambourine), dumbek and bongos and all are memorable especially when playing the taqaseem (musical improvisation). This simple, sweet, pure group of amateur (someone who takes part in something for pleasure rather than pay) musicians is capable of transporting you and your dreams to the land of magic.

Their musical style is simple, hypnotic, to the point as well as repetitious and enables the listener to dance fantasies of sugarplums and love. Whether you close your eyes or not, when you listen to this music, you will immediately be taken to a tropical evening paradise where all is comfortable and warm with breezes bringing in scents of flowers and love.

Rating: 4 zils

Zil Rating- 4
Artist’s site for purchase info

 
Both albums, Ahla Andalusi – Maher Kamal produced by Nesma and 40 Days & 1001 Nights produced by Tamalyn Dallal, are music CDs that are danceable in certain situations. Due to the traditional and historical nature of the music they may not be the music of choice in a club or party type environment. Ahla Andalusi would be more conducive to a theatrical setting or troupe dancing ala the muwashahat of the Reda Troupe or a Feiruz concert. 40 Days & 1001 Nights might be used in a theatrical setting or perhaps at a dance festival showing off period dancing of the ‘70s, ‘60s or earlier. Both pieces are beautiful enough to share with your non-dancing friends. They too will then start dancing in their heads.

Enjoy!

 

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