Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Musicians of the Nile: From Luxor to Isna

From Luxor to Isna is one of the earliest "world music" recordings heard by YHB back in the very early 1990s.  It remains a favorite as these performers from Upper Egypt, specifically the area around Luxor and the great temple at Karnak showcase their talents on the rababah (a two-stringed fiddle held vertically), the arghul (a clarinet with a strongly reedy tone), the mizmar (oboe) and several percussion instruments.

As noted with the album Taqasim by the great Simon Shaheen and Ali Jihad Racy, featured previously on this blog, the use of taqasim or improvised sections is used on several pieces of this album.

Percussion with the tablah (note the Indian tabla) or derbuka shows both the strength of hand striking and softer forms of drumming. 

The third track features four players of the mizmar, including the leader, whose impressive technique in soloing is dovetailed with passages of harmony between all the players of that oboe-like instrument.

Two tracks have notable vocal contributions, evoking emotional responses as well as telling epic tales, such as that of the love story of Yunes, a black man gone to Tunisia and Azizah, the daughter of the sultan.

Interspersed are recordings by Alain Weber, manager The Musicians of the Nile, of street activity, including a horse-drawn carriage, religious chants, and voices and sounds of people in a crowded urban environment, that give a little flavor of life in Luxor.  Peter Gabriel's Real World Records, which has provided a platform for the introduction of much of the music, traditional and modern, found throughout the world, deserves great credit for issuing this sublime recording.

The recordings were actually made in France and England, but these are performances by musicians deeply steeped in the long and diverse heritage of Egyptian, specifically Upper Egypt, music.  This is a beautiful and diverse record that deserved repeated hearings to discover the manifold sounds and textures emboided in the songs, instrumentation, and the playing of these masterful musicians.

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