Album Review: Claudia Aurora – Mulher do Norte – A gem of an album

The sleeve notes have an unusual credit: jewellery by Antonio Goncalves. Why would it say that, I thought, there are only a couple of pictures with the album. And then you notice the one gorgeous earring not ostentatiously but obviously displayed by Claudia on the cover. A clear blue unadorned gemstone that immediately makes me think of the sea, and the timelessness of Portuguese fado.


There are many people more able than me to comment on contemporary fado recordings and judge them against the great names of its history. The classic Portuguese ballad has one disadvantage to me: it can be so stylised in terms of the rhythms, scales and instruments it uses – particularly the twangy Portuguese guitar – that to be honest, one fado can sound very much like another, all very lovely but often similar.  I’ve not spent enough time hanging out in Barrio Alto bars in Lisbon. But then maybe that is the point of the earring. Just as Claudia Aurora is displaying a classic piece that adds to her beauty without being overly showy or making a grand statement, she takes fairly well-worn fado forms and allows them shine.

Of the twelve pieces on the album eight are co-written by Aurora and guitarist Javier Moreno. They sit so comfortably alongside the bouncy song by fado queen Amalia Rodriguez that you would scarcely know these are new compositions. But the slower lyricism of Amantes and Lua and the spoken word of A Tua Ausencia show that Aurora is subtly making the genre her own and bringing her own influences. Looking through the English translations, the lyrics reflect classic themes of love, night, cooking, the gypsy woman and of course suadade. Seems like straight-up fado to me.

It’s a beautiful album, maybe all the better for being in some ways understated. The songs – like that clear blue earring – stand out, and one’s attention is focused on them, so that for a moment one doesn’t take note of Aurora’s voice, until you realise that it too is calmly and exquisitely beautiful – and perfectly suited to the songs it is singing. A gem of an album.

As ever, buy direct from the artist if you can

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Album Review: Reem Kelani – Live At The Tabernacle – a live album with a vengeance.


It seems like British-Palestinian singer Reem Kelani ought to be on her fourth or fifth album, such is the intensity of her artistic vision. But no, this is only her second, following a 10-year gap since Sprinting Gazelle. That doesn’t seem right for a singer and performer who is hugely accomplished and hard-working. Then again, Kelani’s power is in her live performance, so it is fitting maybe that this is a live album.

And when I say ‘live album’, it really means that, complete with the concert presenter’s introduction, audience singalong, and Kelani’s inimitable, fault-free, funny, touching and informative talks between songs. The concert was presented as part of London’s Nour Festival of Arabic Arts produced by the London Borough of Kensignton and Chelsea, Royal no less, and the photos in the (!) 56-page booklet are all from that one night at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. A live album with a vengeance.

It’s a brave decision for an artist to so faithfully capture and release a concert experience as a second album. You can’t easily use tracks for radio play, and you might think that it would appeal mainly to existing fans who have been to one of Kelani’s shows. But this is to misunderstand the nature of her artistry. She is not so much a singer as a performer and communicator, utterly charismatic, both in the contemporary sense of magnetic, and in the original sense of gifted, dare I say, with the gift of the gab. Her art, her lifestyle, is to share emotion, experience and the stories of Palestinian people, whether from the past, present, from the middle east or from Manchester, where she was born, and it doesn’t much matter whether this is in song on stage or chatting over a drink after the show. You may not put this album on as background music during dinner, but this is the album to get the full Reem Kelani treatment; if you love middle eastern music with unique contemporary jazz interpretations; if you think a recording should capture the untweaked raw talent of an artist.

The concert kicks in with percussion and claps and Reem’s voice declaring ‘Let us in!’ It’s a wedding song that’s sung as the groom’s family approaches the bride’s house, reminding me of the tradition in Ethiopia where there is a contrived scuffle as the groom and friends have to barge their way in to the bride’s house. A suitable opening and metaphor maybe of many things, of the Palesinian voice, of a talented musician fighting to get a hearing in the media. It is, as most of the songs on the album, a traditional song from before 1948.

The second song is from Nazareth, her mother’s home town, set to Kelani’s own music. A solo piano introduces Kelani’s voice and then the band. It’s harmonically smooth with Middle Eastern inflections,  settling into a piano groove that evokes Maurice el Medioni, whilst a simple melody reminiscent of Souad Massi with many words sung on intense declaratory single notes ends in a singalong as magical as a reverently worshipful pentecostal church service.

Kelani’s charisma continues in introductions, where she can mix humour with intimate emotion. Her immaculate and articulate English is kind of disorientating at first, though she would probably give me a thump for being so Orientalist about expecting an Arab accent. Mancunians generally don’t have Arab accents. But it is lovely to hear the part of the Arabic texts spoken before being sung.

We get the back story for the next track Sprinting Gazelle from her previous album. A dark story sung at weddings, in “messed up” Palestinian style. The oud solo goes into a charged instrumental groove. It’s well-recorded so you feel the angry buzz of the oud strings.

Songs of Parting begins with a recitative bass solo over a drone, the voice takes over and eventually the meoldy tentatively emerges. It’s a Turkish song. Arabic gives way to Turkish, with a Turkish Kurdish singer joining in and the melody taken up by the violin of Turkish musician Cahit Baylav, who at the end admits he joined in completely impromptu and had never actually met Reem before. It’s completely rough, ready and live – and all the better for it. This track gets the most claps. It’s not very common for Arab singers to reach into Turkish repertoire, even though they are so closely related, but Kelani has a real understanding of the culture and music, and references the late great Turkish clarinettist, Selim Sesler.

The Porters Anthem takes an interesting turn. The jazz piano intro hints at oriental Elington and has playful little figures that remind me of Milhaud’s Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit. I wonder how Reem’s music plays in the Arab world and I recall Fairuz’s to me excellent jazz-influenced phase. I may be wrong but seems one doesn’t hear so much of this kind of musical belnding from the Arab world these days. And this all adds to the uniqueness that is Reem Kelani.

Catch a bit of the concert here filmed for BBC Arabic.
Buy here, direct from the artist.


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Album Review: London Klezmer Quartet – To the Tavern – Intimate and Expressive

What a great listen! This is London Klezmer Quartet’s fourth album. Having followed their progress though a few different line ups, and with initial curiousity about how quite a minimal band would interpret often wild Jewish klezmer music, it’s great to be able to see that LKQ are still going strong, gigging and releasing very good new music.


In fact To The Tavern plays to LKQ’s strength of being a close-up expression of klezmer with a focus on its slower, reflective side, though not without some sprightly faster dances; even the cabaret swing number Goodbye New York gains by being understated rather than overblown. When it comes to putting on an album at home, there’s something to be said for the intimate rather than the bombastic, which some klezmer bands can be – great live but too big for the living room.

The Yiddish vocal of double bassist Indra Buraczewska, part of the band since before their previous album, adds enormously to the repertoire and expression, but the album is clearly a quartet album where the instruments shine. As so often in the projects that she is involved in, it is the clarinet of Susi Evans that stands out for its honeyed tone, delicate phrasing and sweet high notes, but it’s clear that LKQ is a band very much in tune with each other personally as well as musically.

Although the sleeve notes say that the tracks are “traditional except where stated”, in fact only five pieces are traditional. Most of the rest are utterly convincing compositions of the band members, confirming them as amongst the leading klezmer composers of our generation. Though it has to be said that the stand out track of the album is the traditional title track and drinking song A Gleyzle Jas (To the Tavern), with a great vocal by Indra. It’s worth remembering that German speakers will mostly understand Yiddish songs; the song translations in the sleeve notes are a help to appreciation.

Listen to Borscht on the band’s Youtube.

The style of a number of the tracks such as The Inn Keepers Wife by accordionist Carol Isaacs remind us too that klezmer music has roots in central Europe as well as East Europe and Russia, and even the presumably Romanian style Hora de Lacovache Pana (a curious name, googling doesn’t help) is a simple dance in a major key that has the feeling that it connects to the 19th century dance music of Vienna and Budapest.

The album comes with an enigmatic illustration of 6 frames of a film.  The album is inspired by Konrad’s Bukovina Khosidl, a short story by Peter Newall. A bit of digging reveals that a departing train, a signpost to a town and an empty hotel room with a lonely violin, represent this story, which you can download here for extra enjoyment. A few words from the story set the tone:

“Without this violin I am nothing in this world, merely a man with bad papers, without a
job, who speaks every language, even my own, with an accent, a foreigner everywhere except in the valley round my home village, and I am not going back there…”

All in all a beautifully conceived and well crafted album. Buy here.

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Album Review: Cardboard Fox – Out of Mind – Fresh and joyous!

I was lucky to meet this young Bath-based band at a festival in London Ontario Canada (July 2016).


I love this CD a lot and I’m wondering why I don’t listen to this kind of music more often. What do I like about it? The unusual big fat double bass line by John Breese in a folk music set up in the opening track More Than You And Me? The unashamedly catchy tunes? The fine, airy close harmony vocals of twin sisters Charlotte and Laura Carrivick backed by crisp banjo, and mandoline by Joe Tozer? The smooth fiddle playing filling spaces with flights of fancy and double-stopped harmonies? All of those… But above all, the album just seems fresh, light, and joyous, and the clean recording captures this well. It has the same vibe I liked so much in my review of Galician band Talabarte.

The told me they’re a kind of a bluegrass band. They’re not really. They play some bluegrasss style numbers, such as the original Couldn’t Find the Time, and Hiding in High Vis, with its flying fiddle melody performed by Laura, though interestingly composed by main vocalist Charlotte.  But essentially they are a British contemporary folk band without baggage that feels at liberty to pick and mix styles from both sides of the Big Pond, a great advantage. Hey, in their live set in London Ont they even cooked up a Justin Bieber cover for fun, so they’re definitely not folk purists.  It seems to be about songs with easy but intelligent melodies and with more real folk roots than the Mumfords. The title track Out of Sight is Out of Mind is a beautiful, simple ballad; it’s followed by an original Scottish reel, but also thrown in are a cover of a 2014 Ingrid Michaelson synth-pop track and the last number is Dylan with extra fiddle.

Most of the songs are slower rather than faster. Most are originals composed by the band members, some with quirky subjects like Gotta Run.. about needing to get away from a boring conversationalist – probably to follow the creative drive to run and write a song about it.  If I have a small criticism it is that, for me, some of the band’s lyrics are a touch cliched ‘You don’t have to go it alone… I’ll always be here waiting on the end of the phone’. So it was a good move to include three covers for a different style of words. The messages are more personal rather than social,  and the easy lyrics add to the overall positive accessibility. But if they are taking lyrical inspiration from the likes of Dylan, that bodes well for future albums.

Someone else can tell me who Cardboard Fox may emulate, but it seems to me that they have enough originality in their approach and arrangements to make a mark, achieve
success and to attract audiences of all ages.

Here’s my lo-fi clip of their live performance of Out Of Mind at Sunfest London Ontario.
And a Bluegrass-tastic one.
And an official band clip of More Than You And Me.

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Live Review: Mimika – Divinities of the Earth and The Waters

Mimika is a rare beast. An 18-piece jazz big band. Even rarer, a big band playing original progressive music and songs with Balkan roots. They’ve set themselves quite a target. I’m not sure who’s going to book them for a local jazz club show as the economics of it mean that for sure last night’s gig at the Courtyard Theatre London was played for love not money. But they deserve to be booked by festivals across Europe, and maybe their new show “Divinities of the Earth and The Waters“, despite or maybe because of its esoteric sounding title, will help them get some interest. Because what Mimika are doing is really unique, really cool. And yes it’s a beast.


The band is led by young Croatian saxophonist Mak Murtic who composes the music and directed the show slightly off centre stage, sometimes leaving the musicians to do their stuff, sometimes turning to involve the audience or taking a sip from his pint. Although the jam-packed stage of the tiny venue was a visual treat, it’s the music that stands out. As this was the first full outing of this show, there were elements that clearly could polish up a bit. But the youthful energy was palpable, and the compositions hang together, so that the audience know a tale is being spun, even if the words of the two theatrical female singers who sometimes wailed, sometimes went all ederlezi lyrical, are not understood.

The work leans toward the dark side, but with those assymetric Balkan rhythms, wall of brass from the huge wind section, two percussionists, and at one point a stand up rock guitar solo, the show is utterly engaging and appealing even to those who are not obvious jazzers. It is important to recognise the work as that of a substantial composer and band-leader, whose future output will be well-worth following. The ghosts of Stravinsky and Bartok seem to hang around in the shadows alongside Bregovic, for want of a better-known Balkan music reference and someone who has also put bravura into Balkan. It reminds strongly of the curious 1960s liturgical work Hear O Israel which involved Herbie Hancock. It exudes a 60s creative vibe. Though the subtle electronics that came to the fore to glue the work together between pieces and sometimes to live mix some of the instrument located us firmly in the present, as did the European mood.

Watch extracts of the show on Youtube

The concert was opened by Thodoris Ziarkas from Rhodes playing solo on double bass with reverb and lyra fiddle in a great contrasting combination. After the show he admitted that it was his first solo gig. That was not apparent. The brilliant sound mix meant we felt every vibration of his strings. He held the audience captive with a reflective, possibly angry, mood. More please.

The concert followed 2 evenings after the seismic Brexit referendum. Greek and Croatian artists have made their creative home in London. If they and we are lucky, they get to stay, and the public might even fund their art from UK taxpayers’ money. But terrible to think of the creative people we will not now have coming to the UK and the missed oppportunities. Let’s hope that this kind of artistic encounter is not even more of a rare beast in a couple of years’ time.

The concert was organised by Dash Arts.
The performers in this concert were
Maja Rivić  – vocals
Laima Ivule – vocals
Andrew Linham – clarinet
John Macnaughton  – alto saxophone, clarinet
Rob Cope  – soprano saxophone, flute, alto saxophone
Greg Barker  – tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Daniel Woodfield  – tenor saxophone
Sebastian Silas – baritone saxophone
Yazz Ahmed – trumpet
Magnus Pickering – trumpet
Owen Dawson – trombone
Hannah Dilkes – trombone
Benjamin Kelly – sousaphone
Leon Røsten – keyboards, piano, el. guitar
Jamie Benzies – el. bass
Tom Atherton – percussion
Harry Pope – pecussion
Tile Gichigi Lipere – live electronics
Thodoris Ziarkas – greek lyra
Mak Murtić – MD, composer, lyricist

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Film Review – Lamb by Yared Zeleke: What’s not to like?

lambBeing selected as a first Ethiopian language film to premiere at Cannes is always going to create a lot of hype, so I went to see Lamb at BFI London Film Festival with high expectations, but at the same time not knowing what to expect. Was a story about a boy with his pet lamb going to end as an adventure escapde, a political comment, or a difficult art movie? Going from the positive comments from the audience at the Q&A with director Yared Zeleke and producer Ama Ampadu at the packed screening, I think I can say that the film exceeded all our expectations, charming the pants off everyone there, as did Zeleke with with his humble and grateful style in answering questions.

The story was a simple story. Outsider boy in farming family in northern Ethiopia loves pet lamb and is put under great pressure as his father leaves him to live with relatives and traditional, inflexible social situation in a different community to escape hunger during failed rains – with the lamb a possible solution to the family food problems. At root there is a basic life or death scenario. On a story level we are kept guessing as to how the issue may resolve itself, and so are carried on satisfactorily to the end of the film. By which time we realise that Lamb is about so much more than the mundanely believable story.

Most obviously it could be said to be a film about Ethiopia. Rather like the way Fatih Akin as an outsider created his back-to-Turkey-roots movies exploring as he went, New York based Zeleke has managed to bring some outside-inside eyes to a country that not enough people know about – as was evidenced in some of the basic questions at the Q&A.  Zeleke, in contrast to Akin, was born in the country he has portrayed, but in the urban capital Addis Ababa not the very different rural setting of this film. With economic and political difficulties over some decades, Addis city dwellers are only now starting to visit their own country and understand the lives of the 85% who live in rural communities in Africa’s second most populous country. The spectacular, beautifully-shot scenery will do what the poorly designed leaflets of the country’s ministry of tourism has failed to do well, and encourage increased bookings for the classic ‘northern tour’ of the land.

It’s good to remember that the film is set in only one part of the country. I’m not sure whether it’s meant to be near Gondar and the Simien mountains or further towards the Eritrean border and the Adwa mountain range. Ethiopia has over 80 indigenous languages and so is also one of the most diverse countries in Africa. Zeleke nods towards this in finding a way to introduce a Muslim shepherd girl at prayer, a third religious element along side the Orthodox Christian context (a church that predates western Christianity) and the young boy protagonist Ephraim’s (Rediat Amare) Jewish roots, making him a ‘Falasha’ outsider. The word is considered by the community as pejoritive, who prefer to say they are ‘Bet Israel’ – House of Israel. The cultural features of life in the community are painted with broad, slightly over-stylised brush stokes. And yet if there was any element of being over-rosy, or a touch touristic, this is forgiven; the traditional costumes worn by the women maybe more often than they would in day-to-day life are so beautiful they need to be seen, the stylised talk in the family gatherings is curious in its difference to European discourse – yet featuring as much innuedo and sophisticated social positioning – and no one would blame a director for chosing some of the most idyllic scenery available on the planet to set a tale. Details stand out: from the whip wielded and jealously guarded by great aunt to chastise her family and in a show of matriarchal strength not let into the hands of angry uncle, to the extremes of pitch in Amharic intonation, not so different in fact from English. So few films come out of Ethiopia that almost anything goes, but although Lamb will open many eyes to a terribly misundertood country, ultimately the film is maybe not ‘about Ethiopia’, which would be a vast documentary subject.


In spending time in one family in one specific community, Zeleke’s Lamb follows hard on the heels of Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall documentary The Tribe. This was filmed in the Omo Valley (different langauge, history, weather, culture, problems) in southern Ethiopia with the ‘secret cameras’ of the Big Brother ‘Rig’ over 6 weeks in a small number of families and edited to create simple story lines – which were naturally there in the amazing personalities. What brings these two works together apart from the use of non-professional actors – which in Lamb is stunning in its success – is the sensitive and touching handling of close family relationships, the exploration of feelings that are often difficult to express, the young individuals pushing against authority and society, and finding solutions to the practical problems of life. In both works the sickness and possible life or death of a helpless baby – and there is maybe nothing more universally human than a baby before cultural behaviours kick in – came to be a defining issue. In the reality show the crew filmed without intervening the child’s teeth being pulled as a possible cure for what turned out to be malaria. In Lamb the question of the choice between traditional and medical solutions is what drives the final denoument in Ephraim’s personal development.

Which brings me to what Lamb is really about. Ephraim is a sensitive, sweet, bright and intelligent lad who doesn’t quite fit into the harsh realities of life lived so close to to beautiful but harsh Mother Nature. There is no real indication that being ‘Falasha’ is primarily what makes him a bit of an outsider. He has lost and misses his mother; that too has an effect. But essentially he is who he is, and this is his character. We could find boys and girls like him in every country. And he’s growing up. He prefers cooking and singing to ploughing and of course baulks at the idea of slaughtering animals, let alone his beloved Chuni. We sympathise with him. As someone who in Ethiopia as a guest in a family had no way out of ‘doing the honours’ in regard to a sweet, identical lamb, his predicament was for me personally poignant.

The social structures around him do not give him room for manoeuvre or to take on new information and situations at his own speed. And yet ultimately it is his extended family and the-way-things-are-done-round-here which are proved right or at least necessary, and it is Ephraim who has to change, as young people must. The local culture is not culture for no reason; it is born out of centuries of necessity.  Lamb seems at root to be about the dialogue between the old and the new (Ephraim’s female cousin also fights for her belief in modern approaches to agriculture), and between the group and the individual, and particularly the young individual, who, for whatever reason be it sexuality, skin colour or religion or just personal character, feels alone, needs to be treated as a person, and needs to be granted space to grow whilst not being shielded from the realities fo life. And that as a story can be set in any place you like.

On a wider level the film, to Ethiopia, which is pushing forward in education and has ambitious goals to become a middle-income country, suggests a more inclusive social approach where difference, particularly in that country in terms of sexuality or at the least gender roles, should be more understood and tolerated.   For the developed world Lamb may have a different message.  Lord knows today’s teenagers have enough pressures around them not least through being connected online. But nothing barring tragic family circumstances comes close to the real life or death choices faced by children in other places which contribute to their journey to adulthood. Maybe slaughtering an animal ought to be part of the UK national school curriculum – hey, relax, it’s a hyperbolic point 🙂 or at least a visit to the local abbatoir to face some of the forces that control our lives in the developed world.

Ultimately Lamb is about growing and facing reality with humanity.

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Album Review – Adana by Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin – Waiting for the snow to melt.

IMG_3222 As is so often the case, musicians are ahead of the social curve, sharing a mutual language that transcends unforgiving nationalisms. In the case of this beautiful CD – entitled Adana after the city on the Turkish Eastern Mediterrean, which was released around 24 April 2015 when world leaders disagree about whether it is important to use the term genocide when referring to the deaths of up to maybe 1.5 million Armenians 100 years ago in the dying years of the Ottoman Empire at the hands of Turks and some Kurds – encouraging mutual understanding and the reconciliation between Armenians and Turks is its main and explicit theme.

Created togehter by Armenian Vardan Hvanassian on duduk and Turkish Emre Gültekin on stringed instruments such as baglama, tanbur and the wonderfully delicate uç telli  (‘three strings’ prounouced uetch-telly), this is an album of two friends and two nations. The booklet artwork shows two sensitive musicians genuinely enjoying each other’s company. The intimate informality of the whole concept is emphasised in the fact that credits for songs are given by first name only: Emre and Vardan. Joris Vanvinkenroye and Simon Leleux contribute on double bass and percussions.

I’ve previously heard it said by a major name in Turkish folk music after collaborating in a similar project with a famous Armenian duduk player that the combination was musically unsatisfactory, due to the fact that the Armenian and Turkish scales are different and that the duduk with its fixed notes could not work well with instruments such as baglama with its quarter tone scales. It may be true that in this combination some things are musically not possible, but that doesn’t mean that this CD doesn’t work with absolutely stunning and tasteful balance to bring two music cultures together.

For those not familiar with the duduk, a simple wooden reed instrument, which is the leading sound on this album, there is maybe no more plaintive sound in the whole wide world. Its tones have no sharp edges, you can feel the living tree from which it is made, its register matches the human voice, it sings broad melodies and touches something deep. It needs space, leading you to picture open medows at the foot of mountains – and on this CD there is plenty of artistic space for the music to speak. It contrasts with the plucked sounds of the Turkish instruments used – the long-necked baglama lute, the even longer and stately tanbur, and the smaller, sprightly uç telli.

It’s not easy to review albums of duduk music, since the character of the instrument is so strong that it’s hard to get away from always mentioning that the music is meditative, reflective and sad. In Turkish they call it hüzün (a kind of melancholy) which is almost a national character-trait in the Turkish pysche. Nobel prizewinner Orhan Pamuk speaks of perosnal and national hüzün in his autobiographical Istanbul – and he is given the main quote on the back of the album notes from his book Snow: “How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known.”

So yes, this album is a delicate reflective exploration of the pain of nations, both of whom still keenly feel the sufferings of the past. And yet it is immensely uplifting. The sadness is not dark melancholy; suffereing is respected and transformed by quite understanding.

These were my thoughts as I listened through the first few tracks.

Track 5 Daglar (‘Mountains’, a poem by Emre’s father) starts with hushed song. Suddenly the duduk solo, a stylised improvisation, comes in with its long high note, restrained and yet flying, uplifting, looking to the tops of the mountains. It’s maybe only with repeated listening to much duduk music that one begins to detect the positive emotions of hope and joy that underlie the expression of sadness in such an aesthetic.

Track 6 is entitled Hrant Dink, after the Armenian Turkish journalist murdered for his highlighting of the Armenian question. His death in fact brought a certain amount of reconciliation between Turks and Armenians. One feels the track as an exploration of the other. In the background there are light percussion and bass sounds. It’s folk music with a modern and sophisticated outlook.

Track 7 is Lusnak Gisher. This has duduk accompanied by the airy sound of the tar, soundling rather like a santur. It’s a simple instrumental interpretation of a song about someone wandering in the night, taken for a vagrant. The instruments harmonize in 3rd and 6ths.  These are of course known songs in the communities where they come from, and we can only get the smallest sense of the meaning they hold for those who know them, even as instrumentals without words.

Then to the title track Adana. On receiving the CD I was curious to know why an album with many Armenian tunes was called Adana. What I’d always understood was that Adana has a reputation for being quite nationalistically Turkish. What I didn’t know is that 100 years ago it was raised to the ground in an attempt to exterminate the sizable Armenian population there and was at the heart of the tragedy. This is given as a traditional song. But 100 years is not so long ago for the reality of the tragedy to have passed into ‘tradition’. This is a song about families that still live today. A double bass improvisation opens leading into a drone.  Low duduk improvisation is followed by statetly tanbur and into the song itself. Emre’s voice is low, almost whispered.

Here you can watch the group perform this live.

Track 9  brilliantly showcases the rippling sounds of uç telli and is in fact an improvised tribute to Ramazan Güngör, master of the instrument. There are scrapes and percussion which remind me of an Iranian style of music and that Anatolia connects very much further East. The 3 single strings instead of doubled courses make for crystal clear notes, and I see an icy mountain lake.

Track 10 is a song about the beautiful Bingyol region and a traveller asking the way – so my sense of landscape is not wrong. Again this traditional Armenian song has been arranged, simply, in what feels like a contemporary aesthetic.

On track 11 double bass partners with duduk in unsual but effective combination in a composition about nostalgia about young love. Bass duduk ends track 13; it stands out with its lower register and causes me to check this new tone. The song is about patience.  The last song again is about mountainous landscapes: this spring, after the tragedies that have struck, the snow doesn’t want to seem to melt.

This album is all about patience, taking time to understand, and allowing the snow to melt, maybe in its own time, but being convinced that it must do so. It’s a concept album in the sense that the concept is so strong. But I don’t know of a finer album dealing with this theme with such a high level of artistry and musical tastefulness.

The CD is beautifully presented with short notes in French, German and English to orientate the listener. No doubt there are many similar great recordings in both Armenia and Turkey that are mainly for home consumption. It’s great that Belgian label Muziekpublique is really making the effort to communicate this music to a wider audience.

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