Saturday, September 8, 2007

In Review--Whirling into Bliss, Gulizar Turkish Music Ensemble

Gulizar Turkish Music Ensemble
Whirling Dervishes
(800 Years of Mevlana Rumi)
Arc Music

Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian
& His Middle Eastern Ensemble
Oud Masterpieces
Arc Music

When I first started researching spiritual practices and music from those practices one of the images that has stuck with me is that of whirling dervishes. Similar to flowers opening up in midst of a whirlwind, a dance that starts out slow and picks up speed until it mesmerizes, whirling dervishes capture the attention of the poet at heart.

Whirling dervishes, an aspect of the Sufi sect of the Muslim religion, is greatly influenced by the poetry of the Great Sufi Mystic Poet, Mevlana Rumi. Similar to the early Franciscans of the Christianity, Sufis also lived a bare bone existence during the era of Rumi. Their quest was to unite with God through music, dance, and poetry. The Gulizar Turkish Music Ensemble led by kanun virtuoso Tahir Ayodgdu, captures the essence of whirling dervishes and the medieval mystic poet, Rumi on their recording, Whirling Dervishes, (800 Years of Mevlana Rumi).

Traditional flutes, percussion, kanun, and other exotic instruments unite with impassioned vocals. The music here is also traditional, and for those listeners who haven't trained their ears yet, for these exotic scales, and timbres, might need to just delve into the music and let it take them on its journey. The first track, Naat-I Sherif which runs close to an hour, should do the trick. The other compositions average around 5 minutes a piece. And all of the music here could be called exquisite, if not relaxing. The rich details in the liner notes offer a nice bonus.

Also hailing from the Middle and Far East, the late Armenian Oud master, Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian and His Middle Eastern Ensemble bring us exotic masterpieces, performed in differing modes and scales. Although I was expecting to hear an entire recording of moody oud solos, I am pleasantly surprised with the ensemble. Many of the ensemble musicians, if not all of them, were former students of the late oud virtuoso.

I am reminded of another oud master, Marcel Khalife, who also brings modern or Western instruments to his repertoire. The modern instruments on Oud Masterpieces include, accordion, electric bass, violin, and flamenco guitar. The compositions are both traditional and original composed by Bardezbanian, and include, music from Armenia, Turkey, and the Middle East. (For those of you aware of the Armenian/Turkish history might be surprised to find Turkish compositions on an Armenian recording. However, musicians and composers do not cause wars, governments do).

Whirling Dervishes and Oud Masterpieces both offer a pleasant respite from daily living. This music could be used for meditation, if you are not following a traditional meditation route. You could just slip the CDs in this disc player, close your eyes, relax and allow the music to take you on an extraordinary journey. Some people would call that daydreaming. I think that it is necessary to sit with music in a quiet space for at least an hour each day.

Some day you'll find out that listening to music in a contemplative way reduces heart disease and other conditions caused by stressful situations. Whereas, listening to the news for an hour each day, can only cause stress, distress, and outrage. Why not skip that route and go straight to a music revelry?

People often say that they do not have time for meditation, contemplation, or conscious listening to music. But often they have time for watching or listening to the news, watching other people's lives on television, or other time wasters. Time to get conscious and change priorities. Listen to music, play music, and dance to music. Then the world will be a more peaceful place.

Monday, September 3, 2007

In Review--Violins Ablaze! Transkapela

Klezmer Carpathian Music
Arc Music

Oddly enough, a few days after I received Transkapela's recording, Klezmer Carpathian Music in the mail, I heard another Carpathian folk group, (Carpathian Folk Quartet), featured on a community radio show. Prior to visiting Arc Music's site and checking out their new releases, I had never heard of Carpathian folk or otherwise. Yet, this music which can be described as bright, warm, and a frolic in the snows of the Carpathian mountains, threatens to lift any dark mood. Try it!

Transkapela plays mainly Eastern European Jewish klezmer music spiced with some wild gypsy punch. Ewa Wasilewska handles violin duties, and in her hands, that violin sets this thundering music ablaze. Maciej Filipczuk plays violin and trumpet fiddle (see the photo in the liner notes), Piotre Pniewski switches between cello and drum, and you can hear Robert Wasilewski's cimbalom (hammered dulcimer), shimmering throughout the recording. He also plays viola, kaval, tilinka and gordon.

This punchy music reminds me of the French gypsy swing-klezmer group, Les Yeux Noirs who also delves into Eastern European musical territory. This entire recording puts listeners in a celebratory mood. No matter where you are or what you are doing when you hear the songs floating off of this disc, you're going to want to kick up your heels. It also reminds me of happy cartoon cat and mouse chases that I watched as a child. Maybe you could chase someone around the house when you listen to this music, but refrain from driving under its influence.

The quartet cites, "Our musical search revolves around the traditional music of various cultural regions: Malopolska, Galicia (East Europe), Bukovina, Hucul Region, Maramures, Transylvania, where despite the outer formal distinctions, we try to seek its roots, common elements, and the timeless values." That rules out cartoons produced in Hollywood…

The source music is an inspiration for our own interpretations and compositions." The source of their music features various ethnic groups, (Poles, Jews, Romanians, Ukrainians, Gypsies, Germans, and Hungarians). The religions represented in this part of the world include, Catholic, Orthodox, Middle Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and Protestant, but besides all of those influences, the songs here sound like Eastern European wedding music. I can see the foot stomping, plates shattering, and food being passed around.

Certainly vibrant music with rapid fire passages, blazing violin, and shimmering hammered dulcimer is going to get bodies moving, and blood percolating, while sending the chilling news of daily events on its way. Feeling sad, feeling gloomy, feeling upset? Then take a listen to this music. And you can find it at Arc Music