Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews
November 2014 - By Graham Reid

In this issue: a clarinet maverick gets rewardingly intense, the inspiring spirit of the first weeks of the Arab Spring, beautiful music from an unexpected source, more from somewhere familiar, and something for Scots still yearning for home rule.





Le Silence de l'Exode
Yom

We say: An engrossing journey in music through myth, mystery and landscapes.

French clarinetist Yom's training was in Jewish klezmer traditions although in the past five years he has explored electronics with his group, the marvelously named Wonder Rabbis. But this album—a commission on the theme of diasporas—finds him in conceptual territory. Using the "Book of Exodus" as a reference point, this music of journeying and flight is by turns thoughtful, heroic and agitated, yet always focused. The seven minute "Rouge" is full of dramatic, serpentine twists of melody on his Middle Eastern-sounding instrument and over a relentless, walking-pace rhythm conjures up a camel train in a sand-swept landscape.

His small ensemble on double bass, cello (played arco style sometimes mimicking oud) and Middle Eastern percussion are empathetic and given space to improvise. The silence referred to in the title can be spiritual (as on "Moise/Moses"), reflective ("Memoires/Memories") or an evocation of the vast quietude of desertscapes (the sometimes weightless and exotic "Sinai"). But at other times there's something more secular at work (the appropriately woozy "Ivresse/Inebriation").

One part jazz (the bass solo which propels "Chaos") and two parts thrillingly inventive and unpredictable world music located on the crescent between Eastern Europe and North Africa, "Le Silence de l'Exode" is an engaging and often elevating album.






Safar
Imed Alibi

We say: Percussionist no longer 20 feet from stardom but center-frame.

Tunisian Alibi has so many percussion credits that his fat contact book allows him to call the great Emel Mathlouthi to guest on this, his debut album. It is exotic and often thrilling Arabic music which comes with widescreen production in a French studio. Britain's Guardian critic Robin Denselow called this the soundtrack to a film about the hopes for the Arab spring. And with declamatory orchestration by French composer/keyboard player Stephane Puech ("Bounawara") or melancholy moods (the opening of "Fanfare D'Alexandrie" featuring mournful trumpet from Michel Marre) it captures exactly that mood. There's certainly a Cinemascope and Technicolor ethic at work—hefty dub influences, searing nay (Egyptian flute) by Nabil Ghannouchi, melodramatic violin by fellow Tunisian Zied Zouari—although at times it rather overwhelms. Nuance is a notion sidelined in favor of impact.

Perhaps in the attempt to impress Alibi has overplayed his hand, although when Mathlouthi enters on the enormous and swirling "Maknassy" you'll be gasping for breath. And on the mysterious "Nafass' with qanun (zither) by Suzdil Ahmad and nay to the fore it can also be utterly magical. Uneven overall, but really quite something.






The Art of the Mongolian Yatga
Chinbat Baasankhuu

We say: Distant music which feels close to the heart.

Quick lesson: the Mongolian yatga is akin to the Korean gayageum, Japanese koto and Chinese gu-zheng. That is, it is a plucked, 13 or 21-string instrument played horizontally and is extremely awkward to get through Customs at airports. It's large. And rarely heard outside Mongolia. But if you want to hear someone play it, Baasankhuu is that person. She is a professor at the National University of Culture and Art in the department of traditional music in Ulan Bator. And like the great gayageum master Bjungki Hwang, she makes the instrument sing and it's hard edges soft and romantic. Typically assiduous liner notes on this ARC Music collection fill in the background to the instrument, the artist, and the pieces, which come from contemporary composers or popular songs. But if you can't be bothered page turning, just settle in for a delightfully realized, gentle and quite seductive collection.






The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali
Various Artists

We say: More music from Mali to fill your shelf.

The troubled country of Mali—population around 15 million—impressed itself on world music consciousness in the past three decades with some exceptional musicians such as the late Ali Farka Toure and his son Vieux Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate, Oumou Sangare, the populist Amadou and Miriam, Noni Ba … The list goes on. Some of those artists appear on this collection, which may be redundant for those who have shelves bent with music from this remarkable place.

Islamic extremists in the north however have recently taken it upon themselves to interpret Sharia law as meaning no musical instruments, so the very story-telling life-blood of traditional griots is in peril. The Festival in the Desert was cancelled last year. This collection may well repeat music many have heard already, but the vibrant bonus disc "Songhai Blues" by guitarist Samba Toure—a tribute to Ali Farka—is worth the price of admission.






Outlander
Saor Patrol

We say: Big noise and melancholy moods for lads and lassies.

There was a funny and cryptic liner note on the Plastic One Band album "Live Peace in Toronto 1969" which read, "Being born in Scotland carries with it certain responsibilities." Mine is to draw your attention to this thumping outing by one of Scotland's finest, most rocked up, and most muscular trad-contemporary groups. They conjure up the spirit of a Jacobite army on the march against the forces of England, or mourn the losses in battles fought back then. It stirs my heart and makes me beat my pounding chest … but I do also acknowledge the old joke: "Why do bagpipers always walk when they play?" "To get away from the noise."






Graham Reid is a New Zealand—based travel/music/arts writer whose first book Postcards from Elsewhere won the 2006 Whitcoulls Travel Book of the Year Award in New Zealand. His second book The Idiot Boy Who Flew won the Whitcoulls Reader Choice award and is available through www.amazon.com. He hosts his own wide-screen website www.elsewhere.co.nz and his most recent travels have been through India, odd parts of China, the Australian Outback and Jordan. He likes deserts..

See the last round of music reviews from Graham Reid.

Also in this issue:

Le Silence de l'Exode

Buy Le Silence de l'Exode online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK



Safar

Buy Safar online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK





The Art of the Mongolian Yatga

Buy The Art of the Mongolian Yatga online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK



The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali

Buy The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK



Outlander

Buy Outlander online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK



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