Tired of all that glucosine shakahuchi music abusing your ears in incense shops (…wait!, do such things even exist nowdays?; man, I gotta get my head a little more out of the 70s!)? Sick of hideously Westernized orchestrations of non-Western compositions cobbled to underscore Merchant Ivory films? Ready to throttle the next a-hole who tries to convince you that Steven Halpern, Kitaro, and Yanni are authentic at whatever the hell it is they're doing? I know I am. Who's with me? Is it time for the Revolution? Maybe not, because Stage Cuts goes a long long way toward mollifying our indignation and outrage that Oriental musics should be so cavalierly abused.
Keep in mind, dear reader, that 'Oriental' just means 'east of Europe' while 'Occidental' refers to whatever crops up west of the Balkans. In the case of this CD, the music is gloriously mid-Eastern, what most would call 'Arabesque', but exceedingly well updated while fully retaining baseline foundations in that incredible interlocking flow of complexities that so mark the region's highest musical arts. Jalilah's a dancer specializing in the Egyptian Ghawazee style but has appeared world-wide, gracing the paces to various sonic modalities. Her intent in gathering the songs in Stage Cuts is to present a repertoire of 16 tracks suited to what has become a 4-5 minute format in increasingly popular World festivals, slots cut down from 10-12 minutes in order to accommodate the influx of so many dance ensembles. This accounts for the fact that all but two of the tracks here are edits (though I note only two thusly in the track listing in order to differentiate between duplicative titles).
The musicians in the CD are chiefly involved in swirling background orchestrations or foreground percussives and accordion, occasionally singing and playing flute. As might be expected, the percussive pyrotechnics are of the highest order (Ramadan Tabla is pure percussives and astonishing, a rare entry in a very slim catalogue featuring percussive writing and executions as music qua music), dazzling beyond what we in the West are accustomed to, and Mokhtar Al-Said can wrangle his accordion so that it sounds like a synthesizer (catch the 'middle eight' to Ya Amarti). Then there's the birdsong flute capering about in various movements, fluttering the air, flashing its plumage, singing to bring the skies and clouds down to ecstatic players and dancers.
Listen to this music and you'll know not only what's so attractive to traditional and mainstream dancers and musicians in the region but also to Sufi dervishes and highly spiritual practitioners. In the end, though, over and above the many virtues of this collection, it's the percussives that are so earthily entrancing, irresistible, and will hopefully make many Western drummers ponder their roles, regardless of genre.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles