27 04 2009

mo' mobili!

by Juan Mobili

Three albums that may remind you that songs from other cultures may be a chance to save us from being the fanatics we are supposed to be fighting.

Thanks primarily to the last eight years of an American president who’s convinced to be Richard Lionheart—although he’s more the king of the mumble than the jungle and the Tin Man has a better shot at ever having a heart—we’ve been taking our shoes off in airports and embarking in a movie that could be called “The New Crusade: This Time We’ll Kick Their Ass.”

Since music, and art in general, has always educated our hearts, perhaps listening to any of these impressive women—not a coincidence, I think—might rescue us from dipping our swords in our testosterone.

Al Andalus Project – Deus Et Diabolus

Al Andalus was the Arabic name given to the regions of the Iberian peninsula that were governed by the Moors between 711 and 1492. During much of that time, Al Andalus was a center of learning and point of convergence for Muslim Sephardic-Jewish and Christian people who not only lived in peace but, together, were a beacon of true civilization.

So there’s no coincidence that it became the name of this musical collaboration and that Deus Et Diabolus is a passionate and beautiful meeting of members of Estampie—a German group— and the Spanish ensemble L’Ham de Foc. After some members of the latter attended a concert of the former, they sent a tape of their music and the whole thing led to collaborations that included the Moroccan singer Iman al Kandoussi, which culminated in this incredible batch of Sephardic songs, Christian Cantigas and Arab-Andalusian nubas from, Medieval times.

Although most members of both groups are involved in this recording, it’s the voices of Mara Aranda, Sigrid Hausen and Kandoussi that makes this album an extraordinary experience. When each of them leads a song or they join in exquisite harmonies, you may be reminded that these three worlds often at war had lyrical roots that grew close to each other and that a global vision existed before we reduced it to massive marketing campaigns.

Mor Karbarsi – The Beauty and the SeaIn Karbarsi’s new album, old Ladino songs—about 500 years old—and her own recent compositions come fully together—bloom, really—thanks to a voice that bridges centuries of feeling. Unlike Al Andalus Project, she brings our times to the past, partly due to Joe Taylor’s production & turns at the oud and the guitar as well as some guest chops by Trilok Gurtu and Kai Eckhardt

To name favorites is not so much pointless as it is pointless. The whole plays amazingly well together. If you skip a track, it’d be your loss.

Natacha Atlas – Ana Hina

In Ana Hina, her new album, Natacha Atlas’ voice is stripped from prior expeditions into contemporary Electronica and allowed dives sinuously in the deep waters of traditional Middle Eastern songs of longing, and offering us her most heart-felt singing in many years.

Ana Hina journeys back to the night-long conversations suspended on the smoke of sheesha worshippers in so many cafes in the Middle East, where men and women look intently at the mint leaf at the bottom of their cups waiting for their lovers.

Natacha’s voice conjures up the power of melodies that take us to times and places where, although bound to be eternal foreigners, everything will feel deeply familiar … like returning home.